Roy Beck's picture


  by  Roy Beck

To me, David Frum at the venerable Atlantic magazine has now written the most revealing article yet about the why of the Border Surge and what it means.

It is entitled "Decades of lax policies have produced the latest wave of Central American migrants" with the sub-title of "The Made-in-America Immigration Crisis" --

Frum shows how our current policies not only are encouraging the Surge, but they are enriching and making more powerful the gangs creating the violence in Central America.

But first, he explains how one amnesty and amnesty debate after another has already filled American communities with 3 million Central Americans.

The year of that first amnesty was 1986. The amnesty was followed by various extensions and additions, including a 1997 act specifically aimed at displaced Central Americans. Between 1980 and 2000, the number of Central American immigrants living in the United States jumped from 350,000 to more than 2 million (as of 2010, the total exceeded 3 million).

Frum describes how large numbers of those immigrants used their opportunity to live and work in the United States to develop some of the most violent criminal gangs in the hemisphere. Fortunately for the U.S., thousands of them were deported after serving prison terms. But our continuing lax enforcement of immigration laws has provided them with more and more power so that they are described as the most serious threat to peace in the region.

Central America's descent into criminality is as much a consequence of the northward migration as it is a cause--and the feedback effects continue.

In the summer of 2012, President Obama announced that he would use executive power to grant provisional legal immigration status to the estimated 800,000 illegal aliens who entered the United States as minors. With this action, Obama unwittingly created powerful new incentives for illegal migration by people under the age of 18. And once a young person established some kind of legal residency in the United States, they might gain additional rights to sponsor family members they had left behind. That's how things had worked after the 1986 amnesty, after all.

But about the only way for Central Americans to migrate to the U.S. is by paying large sums of money to the drug gangs.

Frum points out that the general media description of the Surgers as desperate belies the fact that they were well-off enough to pay the gangs $5,000 to $8,000 each to get to our border. And the ones who don't have the money up front are well-connected enough in the U.S. to ensure that the gangs will get their money later.

The traffickers don't only move people. They also connect them to the illegal labor market in North America, and then act as debt collectors once the migrants have settled in their new homes.

If these latest migrants gain residency rights in the United States, the gangs who brought them to the country will be enriched and strengthened. Gangs, like any business, ultimately depend on their customers. If too many people find that their $5,000 to $8,000 investments in border-crossing are not paying off, the illegal-migration business will dwindle. If, on the other hand, the gangs succeed in exploiting the opportunity Obama created, they'll attract more business in the future.

Today, Pres. Obama reportedly told the Hispanic Caucus of Congress that he is intent on extending an executive amnesty and work permits to millions more illegal aliens, including hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who paid their way into the country before this year. Frum tells us what the Obama plan will mean:

Each wave of illegal settlement induces and produces the opportunities for the next. The unaccompanied minors smuggled into the United States this year all have relatives back home. If resettled in the United States, they'll acquire the wherewithal to pay for the transit of those relatives. And, of course, many of these minors either currently belong to the gangs carrying out the smuggling or will soon be recruited by them. That's another way to pay the cost of the trip.

It's not wrong to describe what is happening on the border as a "humanitarian catastrophe." But it's not the particular kind of catastrophe imagined by (most of) those who use the phrase. The Central Americans showing up in Texas are not this hemisphere's version of Syrian refugees, fleeing a war zone where they would be killed if they stayed. They are people coping with a very ugly set of choices, made worse by America's past laxity on immigration. If the present surge is not stopped and reversed, those choices will get uglier still.

-- ROY BECK is Founder & President of NumbersUSA

border surge

Updated: Thu, Jul 31st 2014 @ 6:20pm EDT

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