The detrimental effects of the humanitarian and national security crisis on our border extend all the way to Alabama communities. That’s why I’ve made it a priority to address our immigration policies.
One of the most obvious ways our insecure border harms our communities is the drug trade. Our porous border is perhaps the most significant contributing factor to the ongoing opioid crisis — the worst drug epidemic in modern American history. In 2017, over 47,000 lives were claimed by opioids. That’s more than those from car accidents and firearms. These deaths have affected families across our great state.
The drug problem is made worse by the unprecedented migrant surge. James Carroll, director of the U.S. Office of Drug Control Policy, said just last week that drug seizures are down this year because so much attention is being diverted to humanitarian needs.
Because of that diversion, border patrol agents and resources are unable to be allocated towards their fundamental law enforcement functions. According to Carroll, more drugs are coming in than ever before.
One of the primary drivers of the migrant crisis is our asylum policy. Through a combination of loopholes worsened by a legal settlement made by the Clinton administration, migrants are encouraged to cross our border and give themselves up to law enforcement.
After arrest, migrants claiming asylum are eventually permitted entrance into the country while their claims are processed. This is permitted even when migrants do not cross at a legal checkpoint.
Although, by some estimates, only around a tenth of asylum claims are found by our courts to be legitimate, the vast majority never show up for their court date and remain free inside the United States.
A disproportionate number of these asylum claims are made by able-bodied young men. Only a few months ago, a Mobile teacher was killed in a car crash by an illegal immigrant minor who had falsely claimed asylum but never showed at his court date to avoid deportation.
The coyotes and cartels, of course, have every reason to facilitate migrants along their journey and orchestrate lawlessness at the border.
Last week, one of the biggest points of entry at the Southern border had to be shut down after a wave of nearly 50 undocumented immigrants rushed the border into Texas. The group attempted to tear down barricades and assaulted several border patrol officers who were forced to deploy tear gas and pepper balls.
Let’s call these people what they are – criminals. And while border agents were able to keep these criminals out of our communities, many more slip through the cracks while agents deal with illegal stunts like this and the humanitarian needs of asylee claimants.
Last year, a 13-year-old girl in Huntsville was beheaded after witnessing the stabbing of her grandmother by gang members in a horrific incident involving members of the Sinaloa Cartel. It is disheartening that gangs like MS-13 have infiltrated communities throughout our nation, but stories like this reinforce the sad truth that the problem is impacting Alabamians.
There are other significant problems that do not receive headlines. I’ve spoken with Alabama sheriffs who have shared horror stories about the strain illegal immigration places on their deputies. And I’ve talk to incredibly frustrated school superintendents who must divert resources away from educating local students to deal with their illegal immigrant population. Our hospitals are also placed under enormous burdens by illegal immigration. And governments are forced to pay for services for illegal immigrants that could have gone towards roads, bridges and other services for Americans.
This is not just a Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or California issue. This is an Alabama issue. I will continue standing with President Trump and work to get an immigration system that works for the American people.
U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.