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Congressman Jason Smith

Congressman Jason Smith

The 20-Day Border

What you believe is happening at the southern border is likely determined by the news channels you watch or the papers you read. In the spirit of the Show-Me State, I wanted to see it for myself without the partisan filters in the news media. I traveled with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to the southern border this week, and what we saw completely changed what we thought we knew about the immigration crisis.

More than 144,000 migrants were taken into custody just last month, the highest amount in 13 years. Border agents told us the flow doesn’t stop and hundreds of migrants show up on American soil illegally around the clock. I saw this in McAllen, Texas, a mile and a half away from the southern border when I witnessed a group of 19 immigrants walk up and turn themselves in to border agents. It opened my eyes about what is actually happening at the border: The group wasn’t running from agents or trying to sneak their way into the country. They knew exactly where to meet the agents and wanted to be detained.

As multiple senior border agents told me, “They know exactly how to game the system.” Current immigration laws have created a broken system where everybody loses except cartels in Mexico. Migrants pay smugglers and coyotes almost everything they have to take them to the border and take routes to under-secured border areas. They are coached on what to say when they turn themselves in and told what to expect in holding areas.

Illegal immigrants know if they claim “credible fear” in their home country, they will likely be guaranteed entry into the United States. The system is overwhelmed and immigration courts are backed up, so illegal immigrants have roughly four to five years before their case will ever be heard. Many disappear as soon as they’re on U.S. soil and never show to their court date.

You’ve no doubt heard about supposed “family separations,” but the reality is darker than people realize. U.S. law says minors are not allowed to be held for longer than 20 days, and the Flores court decision says agents cannot separate children from people who claim to be their parents. Word spread to people who want to enter our country, so they’ve begun to force small children to take the dangerous journey with them to America.

CBP agents told me this is what keeps them up at night. They know a good portion of the people trying to enter the U.S. are lying about the children with them, but they have a difficult time proving it. In a recent DNA testing pilot program, nearly 25 percent of the tests revealed that the adults were lying about being the parents of children they were with. The minors endure terrible conditions so people can claim they’re a family unit and be released into the U.S. within 20 days. In cases of “child recycling,” children are flown back to their countries and forced to take the journey all over again.

What’s really unfortunate is our country’s generosity and lenient immigration laws are encouraging more and more people to end up in these perilous situations. This week House Democrat leadership passed an immigration bill that would leave the broken system the way it is and only encourage more illegal immigrants to enter our country. H.R. 6, the so-called “American Dream and Promise Act,” would spend close to $30 billion to give blanket amnesty for roughly 2.5 million illegal immigrants. There would be no resources for personnel, technology, or infrastructure that every border official told me they desperately needed. As one border official told me this week, “We still haven’t figured out what to do with the current DACA recipients, and if nothing changes all we are doing is creating the next DACA class.”

I think it should be mandatory for every Member of Congress to visit the southern border and see the mess for themselves. If every Member saw what I saw this week on the border, I don’t believe H.R. 6 would have passed the House. Instead of encouraging the bad actors and cartels, Congress needs to change the laws – because right now we don’t have a real border, we only have a 20-day waiting period.