The Biden administration recently awarded a $172 million grant to the Vera Institute of Justice, an activist group backed by left-wing billionaire George Soros. The taxpayer funding will be used to provide lawyers to young illegal immigrants seeking to evade deportation.
Administration officials and liberal activists view this legal aid as an act of compassion, but it’s not. Making it easier for illegal immigrants to stay, even sympathetic younger ones, only incentivizes more people to make the dangerous journey, or hire smugglers to traffic their children across the border. Hundreds of immigrants die on this trip every year, and a much larger number face physical and sexual abuse.
Truly compassionate policies would secure the border and deter immigrants from embarking on such a dangerous, illegal, and often futile journey in the first place.
Under the Biden administration, U.S. border security has deteriorated, but the previous status quo was hardly ideal either. Between February 2017 and June 2021, more than 650,000 children entered U.S. custody. Customs and Border Protection reported 147,925 encounters with unaccompanied children in fiscal 2021. There were over 100,000 encounters in the first half of this year. And those numbers only include known border crossings — the actual figures are almost certainly higher.
These statistics don’t communicate the tragic toll on immigrants, especially young girls. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently returned from the Texas-Mexico border with startling reports of death and human trafficking. As U.S. border agents explained, “coyotes,” cartel-sponsored sex traffickers, routinely smuggle young women and girls into the U.S. Officials estimate that 60% of these girls are raped during the journey.
Just days before Ernst and Cruz arrived, two little girls, aged 5 and 6, were raped in a grassy spot by the border. Human traffickers have ghoulishly selected special “rape trees” — spots dedicated to the abuse of young women and preserved as “a taunt to law enforcement.” Based on what he’d seen, Cruz left convinced that immigrants are experiencing “the worst plague of slavery in America since the Civil War.”
Sexual violence isn’t the only threat to immigrants. New arrivals are consistently dying from thirst, heat, and falls from the border wall. This June, human smugglers left a tractor-trailer of immigrants to rot in the sweltering San Antonio sun. Fifty-three victims suffocated before anyone found them. In 2021, the number of migrant deaths exceeded 1,200, according to the Missing Migrants Project.
These deaths and abuses are preventable. If people knew that there was little likelihood of successfully crossing the border, and even less chance of being allowed to stay illegally, they’d stop embarking on these journeys in the first place.
An administration truly interested in the welfare of young immigrants would stop exposing them to coyotes and drug cartels. Instead, our leaders are using taxpayer dollars to maintain this dangerous, dysfunctional status quo.
Shakil Hamid, an immigrant from Bangladesh, lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland.