Criminal organizations trafficking women, children, families and single adults over the U.S.- Mexico Border earned as much as $14 million a day in February, according to border patrol sources.
“Trafficking is a multibillion-dollar industry,” said former Tucson Border Patrol Chief Roy Villareal, who retired in December after 30 years with the agency. “A lot of these vulnerable populations use their life savings. Some are essentially indentured servants and they’re working off this debt for a long period of time. In other cases, some of these migrants are asked to transport narcotics or some form of crime to work off a different part of their debt.”
The human smuggling windfall comes as U.S. taxpayer costs for the border crisis continue to spike, topping $5 million a day, based on 2019 figures provided by Health and Human Services that put daily “influx” shelter costs at $800 per migrant. Additionally, last week the Biden administration awarded a $86 million contract for hotel rooms to hold 1,200 migrant families as the crisis exceeds ICE holding capacity.
Additional costs will include overtime and hotel costs for the hundreds of agents reassigned to Texas from other areas. For context, in 2019 Congress appropriated an extra $4.6 billion to handle a similar migrant surge. In 2014, Congress gave President Obama an extra $2.7 billion to deal with his border crisis.
“The Biden Administration has been an abject failure when it comes to ensuring the safety of unaccompanied minors who cross our border,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbot said in a statement. “President Biden’s refusal to address the border crisis is not only enabling criminal actors like human traffickers and smugglers, but it is exposing innocent unaccompanied children to illness and potentially unsafe living conditions.”
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended the president’s handling of the situation, saying, “We are encouraging families, not to send their children along the dangerous journey because so many do not make it safely. We are encouraging them not to do so. Yet, if they arrive at the border, we have a responsibility to allow them to make their claims under United States law.”
An appeal courts this year found the U.S. is not legally obligated to accept unaccompanied minors. The Trump administration sent most Central American minors, the majority of whom are ages 15 to 17, back to their home countries to join family there.
NGOs, or nongovernmental organizations, are also looking for taxpayers’ support. The agencies typically step in when ICE or CBP shelters reach capacity. In San Diego, the county asked the California delegation to reimburse Jewish Family Services for shelter, food, transportation and case management for hundreds of migrants taken in since January.
“They did hold a gun to our head because they were asking for money to nongovernment organizations that take on these refugees,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. “And they wanted an indeterminate amount of money for something permanent. And they wanted basically a blank check.”
Issa’s staff asked for a breakdown of expenses, but the county has yet to respond. “The NGOs are happy to take federal dollars to do social work. But at the end of the day, the taxpayers on the hook and probably for a long time to come,” he said.
Despite claims of surprise from the White House and Mayorkas, Villareal says top-ranking border patrol officials, including RGV Sector Chief Brian Hastings, specifically warned the incoming Biden team in early December their plans would lead to an influx of migrants.
“During the transition, we told them what would happen if they went this route. So, it is both predictable and predicted. And they went down this route. So you have to ask yourself why did they do that, and the answer is they want this flood at the border,” said former ICE chief Ken Cuccinelli.
During its daily briefing, the White House has taken a daily shot at the Trump administration, calling its treatment of asylum seekers “cruel” and “inhumane.”
But numbers provided by the Justice Department show the Trump administration granted more asylum seeker applications, and at a higher rate, than Obama in his first or second term.
As for criminal organizations, profits made at the border are used to pay off and corrupt police and government officials in Central America, further fueling the border crisis. However, Biden claims his strategy to send US tax money south will strengthen those governments.