How many undocumented immigrants will die before the Bush administration realizes that the most humane act it can take is to close our southern border and thus stop smugglers from taking the calculated risk that financial profits outweigh the costs of getting caught?
The recent death from dehydration and heatstroke of 19 people among 100 undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America crammed into a tractor-trailer near Victoria, Texas, is the latest in a series of similar tragedies.
Smugglers have locked immigrants into sweltering trucks to bring them into the United States for years. Only death makes it newsworthy. Trucks ought to be inspected when they cross the border, for the protection of the undocumented immigrants as well as for U.S. sovereignty.
Last year, 145 undocumented immigrants died in the Arizona desert alone, according to Border Patrol statistics. Smuggling is often accompanied by violent crime, such as murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.
Smugglers reap millions in profits. They collect fees upfront, then often abandon their clients in the wastes of the desert Southwest without food or water, or hold them in "drop houses" until their families free them by paying ransoms between $800 and $2,500, it was reported in Phoenix.
Yet, only 140 new federal agents were assigned to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona this year. That's a pitiful response compared to tens of thousands who enter the United States every year.
Congress and the Bush administration are toying with plans to use state-of-the-art technology to monitor the activities of law-abiding Americans. The United States uses camera-equipped, unmanned spy planes in Afghanistan to hunt for terrorists. When are we going to use advanced technology on our border, including surveillance planes, electric fences, and, yes, U.S. troops to protect the states against undocumented entry as required by Article IV of the U.S. Constitution?
The leader of a ring that smuggled about 900 undocumented immigrants during the 1990s was convicted in April after two of his passengers died in a sweltering tractor-trailer near Dallas. Each week, the smuggler would bring as many as five loads of undocumented immigrants to safe houses in El Paso, Texas, where they would be picked up to be hauled to eager U.S. employers nationwide.
A Florida farm labor contractor was sentenced in April for luring undocumented immigrants into a smuggling operation that left 14 dead and 11 others to suffer in the Arizona desert after they were abandoned by their guide.
Last year, 94 people were prosecuted in Colorado for smuggling undocumented immigrants.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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