A Tour of Smuggler’s Gulch
From San Diego, California:
The US/Mexico border in southern California is a study in contrasts. Part of the border is a single, rusted wall of corrugated steel. There are clear signs that illegals have climbed over or dug under this barrier. With more than two million residents of Tijuana, Mexico, just a few hundred yards away, this doesn’t appear to be much of a national border. Farther to the east, we got a glimpse of the future: A two-layer border fence with video surveillance towers and a patrol road in the middle. It is an imposing sight and, while not completely secure, the new neighborhoods being built just inside the U.S. border attest to the fact that this border is largely secure.
We spent the day touring border areas, detention centers and the largest port of entry in the United States: southern California’s San Diego sector. Different from many other areas of the US/Mexico border, this is an area that has seen real progress in border security over the past ten years. In 1995, more than 500,000 arrests were processed in this sector and, after extensive border and personnel changes, that number has dropped to around 125,000 in 2005.
The success of what CBP called “Operation Gatekeeper” is especially important since San Diego is considered the number one point of entry for criminal aliens on the U.S. border. The terrain, population density and numerous transportation options have made this the most attractive arrival point for aliens with criminal intent. Progress here should mean that our families are safer from criminal aliens but, unfortunately, the U.S. border is more than just San Diego.
The discouraging news is that there is evidence that success here has only driven many of the drug and human traffic activities to less secure areas of the border.
We were also told that different standards for prosecution in districts along the border virtually invite illegals to “game the system,” shaping their smuggling efforts to regions and quantities that will avoid serious criminal penalities.
My biggest insight came during a briefing at the Imperial Beach station of the San Diego sector. There we were told that the same cartels that are building sophisticated tunnels and systems to move illegal drugs into our country have a large network of “load houses” that move workers into the U.S. economy on a fee-for-service basis. Companies in the United States that need laborers spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on these human trafficking organizations. The fees range from $200 to $2,000 per person and are most often paid by wire transfers coordinated by ostensibly legitimate middle men in the United States who arrange for the laborers that have been “ordered” by U.S. companies.
We were told that the same cartels putting drugs in the hands of our kids are making billions of dollars smuggling laborers into the U.S. market. One load house recently detected was posting $1,000,000 per month in income. This seems to me to be an argument for three major elements of the Hutchsion-Pence plan: border security first, employer sanctions and a new guest worker program.
From what I saw of the success here in San Diego, the border can be secured but it will require people and resources to do it. Employers must face serious fines for hiring illegal immigrants to cut off the demand for illegal workers that fuels the smuggling cartels. We must create, outside the United States, a system that would permit law-abiding workers to obtain access to our nation to work. We must replace the illegal system of load houses, a system that finances drugs and violence, with a legal system that protects our nation, respects our laws and meets the needs of our growing economy.
As I prepare to leave for the border area of Texas, I leave with a profound sense of gratitude for the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol. Their courage, candor and optimism convinces me that we can and will solve the crisis of illegal immigration. May God bless the U.S. Border Patrol.