Opponents of the President’s national emergency declaration have called his efforts to secure our border “immoral” and “dangerous. This continued demagoguery ignores the true reality of the situation: illegal drugs are pouring over our border and fueling an opioid crisis that is killing tens of thousands of Americans a year. The true immorality here is the reluctance to do anything about it.
I recently had the chance to visit the Mariposa Port of Entry in Arizona, where I saw cartel scouts conducting counter surveillance on the hills in Mexico overlooking the Port, so I know from personal experience that the drug cartels aren’t backing off. By enabling the entry of these drugs through gaps in border security, we are putting our citizens at grave risk.
There was a young woman from my home state named Samantha, who was a high school cheerleader and a beloved student. She was introduced to heroin and, sadly, succumbed to addiction, dying of an overdose in 2017. Samantha is not the only one to be affected by the onslaught of drugs in our country; in 2017, over 70,002 people died from drug overdoses. To effectively counter this rising threat, common sense tells us that we must address the supply chain, which leads us to our southern border. Ninety percent of the heroin in the United States comes through our southern border and in 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized enough cocaine to fill more than 141 one-ton pickup trucks.
An effective border security solution is also needed for the safety of our neighborhoods and communities. In December, we heard the tragic story of California Police Officer Ronil Singh, who was gunned down by an illegal immigrant in a routine traffic stop on the day after Christmas. Ronil was an immigrant himself but he came here legally. It isn’t fair that individuals who come here legally, like Ronil, and the young family he left behind are punished because of the failure of Congress to get serious about illegal immigration. Although the media often depicts all individuals coming across the border illegally as innocent migrants fleeing bad circumstances, the truth is that violent illegal immigrants have contributed to numerous deaths in the United States. In 2018, Custom and Border Patrol arrested 17,000 adults at the southern border who already had criminal records, and at least 800 of them were gang members. There is no telling how many cross the border each day that we are unable to apprehend.
Just as concerning is the safety of innocent people who want to immigrate here but are taken advantage of by the cartels. According to Doctors Without Borders, over 30 percent of women who travel to our southern border are sexually assaulted on their journey. If we had a secure border, rather than one which people know they can easily sneak across, migrants—including innocent women and children—would not set off on this dangerous journey and risk falling prey to these criminals.
Lastly, our drive to fix the border must focus on fairness. I have a constituent named Juan who is desperately trying to bring his wife to America. He is having quite a difficult time because he’s trying to do it legally. So far, Juan has spent over a year working to gather stacks of paperwork and has paid large amounts of money, just to try to follow our laws. Our needlessly complicated system shouldn’t punish those who follow the rules and reward those who break our laws. However, we essentially have left an open invitation for this sort of behavior when we leave portions of the border unguarded. In 2017 alone, CBP agents apprehended over 300,000 people trying to cross illegally into America. Any reforms to our immigration system must be paired with a robust commitment to a stronger border, ending the incentive to come here illegally.
Now is the time for action. I appreciate the President’s resolve and determination to protect our borders and address the dangers of the deadly narcotics and illegal immigration that threaten our families and communities. His emergency powers give him the authority to redirect funding to protect the American people, and I believe there are non-defense areas of the government where it is appropriate to do so. I stand by him on this issue, in hopes that future Samanthas will not fall prey to drugs, future Ronil Singhs will live and get to watch their children grow up, and future Juans will be rewarded for following immigration laws with a system that is fair and just.