Tennessee senator says some traffickers are drawing from government assistance benefits
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said it’s time American taxpayers stopped financing the smugglers and human traffickers, and has introduced a “Stop Taxpayer Funding of Traffickers Act.”
“This legislation will put an end to our tax dollars subsidizing traffickers,” Blackburn said at a press conference on Feb. 15.
Blackburn said she, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss), and Sen. Katie Boyd Britt (R-Ala.) recently toured the Southern border and were appalled at what they found. Blackburn described watching a family, including young children and a grandmother, crossing the frigid Rio Grande. Blackburn asked why they would take such a risk with their children.
“They said, ‘Biden told us to come.’ They feel like it’s an open border. It’s chaos,” Blackburn said.
Biden administration officials did not return an email for comment. But during a visit to the border last January, Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told reporters that DHS developed a smartphone app for illegal immigrants to submit asylum claims before they got to the U.S. border. The app was meant to direct them to legal ports of entry and away from smugglers and human traffickers.
“What we’re trying to do is have them use this app, come to a port of entry in a safe and orderly way, and make their claim,” Mayorkas said at the time.
According to Blackburn, the plan hasn’t worked due to many abusing the good-will system. In the two years since Biden took office, upwards of 5 million people have entered the country illegally. Mayorkas is facing impeachment in the House of Representatives for his lack of action to safeguard national security amid what many say is a border crisis.
Blackburn said that, while it is common knowledge that illegal immigrants often qualify for some federal assistance, she was shocked to learn that people who have been charged with human trafficking or drug smuggling qualify for assistance. Her bill will end this loophole.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that Blackburn’s revelation was “enlightening.” He had also just introduced his own bill to reform the process for requesting political asylum.
Graham wants to be on the floor of the Senate when Blackburn’s bill comes up for a vote. “I’m dying to see who objects,” he said.
Taking Advantage of America’s Good Will
Graham and Blackburn said the Biden administration had led people to believe that if they could make it to American soil, they would be allowed to stay. Graham said most who claim asylum are simply looking to start the process, then disappear into society with no intention of showing up for hearings.
“If you don’t change the asylum law, you can build a wall up to the sky; it will not fix this,” Graham said.
Britt, a Senate freshman, said she was shocked at how much children’s clothing and shoes littered the ground along the border. Britt said Border Patrol agents told her that once unaccompanied children make it to the border, traffickers turn them loose. Visibly shaken, Britt cupped her hands as if holding one of those children’s shoes.
“Every one of those has a story,” Britt said. “Why in the world we would allow drug cartels to become rich off our most vulnerable is beyond me.
“It’s beyond disgusting.”
Hyde-Smith said they were accompanied by a young woman who had been forced into prostitution between the ages of 12 and 16. She said it’s sickening to think the woman’s victimizers may be drawing federal assistance.
“The stories these ladies will tell you, you will never get them out of your mind. The fact that a bill like this is necessary is appalling,” Hyde-Smith said.
The Senators said the cartels use the flood of illegal immigrants to move contraband, including fentanyl and terrorists, into the United States.
Blackburn said Border Patrol agents have told her the cartels have advanced surveillance equipment and use it to track agents.
The traffickers flood one sector with people. When the agents respond, they move contraband through a separate area, away from the overwhelmed Border Patrol.
According to Britt, the crisis at the border touches all Americans.
She said that in the first two months of school this year, there were 15 incidents in which Narcan was used on Alabama school campuses due to fentanyl overdoses.
“Under the failed policies of the Biden Administration, every single state across this nation has become a border state, and Alabama is no exception. This is unacceptable,” Britt said.
Graham agreed. He said the situation has escalated beyond just a question of protecting jobs or preventing welfare fraud.
“This, to me, is a national security issue as well as a border issue,” Graham said.
When asked if they would support an immigration reform bill, Hyde-Smith and Blackburn said they would. But, they pointed out that changing one law alone won’t help. Blackburn said the border must be secured if immigration reform is going to work.
Hyde-Smith agreed. “Nothing is going to stop unless we stop it,” she said.