Safe Sponsor Act will close border loopholes, fight human trafficking
The Biden administration’s open-border policies have incentivized more illegal immigration — threatening both the safety and security of American citizens. As the flow of illegal aliens and illicit drugs increases across our southern border, Congress must act to close loopholes in our immigration system that allow this humanitarian and national security crisis to persist.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol recently released updated statistics showing 164,973 border encounters occurred during the month of February. This amounts to a 63 percent increase compared to February of last year—a month in which border encounters had already tripled those reported in 2020.
In the last full year of President Trump’s term, the United States averaged about 38,000 border encounters per month. By contrast, that number has risen to 175,000 encounters per month under President Biden. In fact, we haven’t had a month with fewer than 100,000 encounters since before Joe Biden became president.
While these numbers are enough to make your head spin, the picture they paint is clear: Illegal immigration is up, and it’s rising at a faster rate than any time in recent memory. To deny that this is a crisis is to deny reality.
Illegal immigration propagates a system whereby drug smuggling, extortion, and human trafficking run rampant across our communities.
Equally as striking as the sheer number of illegal aliens pouring across our southern border are the glaring oversights made by federal agencies which allow human traffickers and other criminal elements to operate freely inside the United States.
Upon learning of the Biden administration’s covert operations to transport migrant children to airports in Pennsylvania, our team contacted both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for more information.
Over the course of these discussions, we discovered not only that these “ghost flights” are indeed occurring in states across the country, but also that the procedures for transferring custody of these children were ripe for exploitation by human traffickers.
Under current law, unaccompanied migrant children, once apprehended, are placed under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Many are subsequently released into the custody of sponsors.
But there is no requirement for these sponsors to be U.S. citizens, meaning some could be in the United States illegally as well.
As a result, these sponsors are often less documented than the children entrusted to them. An oversight on this scale leaves a dangerous gap in the government’s vetting process and provides a ready-made loophole for child traffickers to exploit.
That’s why I’ve introduced the Safe Sponsor Act, which would eliminate this loophole by requiring sponsors to be either lawful U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents. My legislation will be a critical tool in the fight against human trafficking and will ensure that unaccompanied migrant children are placed only with individuals who have been heavily vetted and declared capable of providing care.
Last year, there were 122,731 children referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a result of the same open-border policies which have fueled the historic increase in illegal immigration.
While it’s clear the Biden administration must reverse these policies and reinstate the effective solutions reached under the Trump administration, we cannot ignore the welfare of the hundreds of thousands of children who are already here.
Neither can we, in good conscience, abdicate our moral responsibility to protect these children from preventable harm at the hands of human traffickers. Given President Biden’s negligence on the border crisis and his total apathy toward its effects, it is imperative that Congress moves swiftly to enact safeguards against the trafficking of child migrants.
Keller represents the 12th District of Pennsylvania.