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Refusing to Address the Border Crisis is Immoral

Thought Leader: Mark Morgan
January 25, 2023
Source: Newsweek
Written by: Mark Morgan

ven in a nation that includes the principle of separation of church and state in its founding document, for centuries our political leaders have often heeded the counsel of religious leaders on important moral issues of the day. But religious leaders, like politicians, have had a mixed record when it comes to being on the right side of history. The antebellum South had more than its share of pastors who found justification in Scripture for maintaining slavery. Father Charles Coughlin was perhaps the most prominent American Nazi sympathizer in the 1930s.

In other words, when it comes to political matters, you can wear a clerical collar and still be wrong—very wrong.

A host of faith-based organizations have been weighing in on immigration issues in recent years, enlisting God as their ally in the cause of open borders. As our nation grapples with an unprecedented border crisis that is a humanitarian, public health, and national security one as well, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has come out in strong opposition to a narrow, commonsense bill aimed at addressing the underlying cause of this multifaceted crisis: the release of nearly every migrant into the country.

In a January 17 letter circulated to members of Congress, USCCB claims falsely that Congressman Chip Roy’s (R-TX) Border Safety and Security Act of 2023 (H.R. 29) would “would sever access to protection for vulnerable persons on the move, including asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, victims of torture, and victims of human trafficking who are fleeing life-threatening situations.”

However, H.R. 29 does not does not prevent migrants from making asylum claims at the border. It provides that to claim asylum, an individual must be detained pending the adjudication of their claim (already required by federal law) or that individual must wait for the adjudication of their claim while in Mexico (explicitly authorized by law).

If the federal government is not capable of doing either, the migrant will be expelled and can claim asylum in Mexico (or any other country). That migrant may also seek protection from persecution under U.S. refugee laws, which have been on the books for decades.

Migrant crisis
Hundreds of migrants line up to be processed by US Border Patrol under the Stanton Street Bridge after illegally entering the US, in El Paso, Texas, on December 22, 2022.ALLISON DINNER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In reality, H.R. 29 does exactly the opposite of what detractors like USCCB claim. It deters the wholesale abuse of the asylum process and reserves our asylum system for those truly in need. At the same time, it ends the enticement for economic migrants to place their lives in the hands of vicious criminal cartels that smuggle, traffic, and abuse untold numbers of migrants.

Regaining control of our borders, which the bishops acknowledge to be “the right of the United States,” cannot be achieved so long as people know that arriving at the border and merely requesting asylum virtually guarantees admission to this country.

Equally important, H.R. 29 would ensure USCCB’s overarching objective of “border management that respects human life and dignity.” It is hard to imagine anything less respectful of human life and dignity than a system that lures impoverished migrants to their deaths as they attempt to cross the perilous Darién Gap, or subjects countless women to rape and sexual abuse at the hands of smugglers and, for those who make it, years of indentured servitude in this country to pay off their debts to the criminal cartels.

All of this degradation of migrants is directly facilitated by Biden administration policies that H.R. 29 aims to reverse.

But it is not just the migrants who are being grievously harmed by what is happening at the border and on the treacherous journey north. The ceding of border control to powerful criminal cartels is literally killing Americans. The same multinational criminal organizations that prey on migrants are poisoning our communities with lethal narcotics.

The vast majority of the fentanyl that is killing more than 100,000 Americans a year is pouring across the porous border that was breached by more than a quarter of a million illegal migrants in December alone. As border enforcement agents are tied up processing migrants instead of keeping our border secure, the cartels are moving tons of lethal drugs into our country.

An open southern border can also bring terrorist threats to American communities. In the last three months, 38 suspects on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database have been apprehended trying to cross the southern border, on pace to break the record 98 apprehensions in the last Fiscal Year. For reference, there were only 15 such apprehensions in in FY21 and three in FY20. Even more alarming, with over one million “gotaways” since President Biden took office, who knows how many more terrorist threats have entered the country illegally?

Charitably, the opposition of USCCB (and other faith-based groups) to reasonable efforts to end the crisis by simply detaining or turning away migrants is myopic. We can all cherry-pick verses from Scripture that affirm our political positions. Every religious and ethical code demands that we be charitable and welcoming. But these same doctrines demand we serve and protect the interests of the societies in which we live.

In the long run, no one’s interests are ever served by chaos and abuse of laws. Such outcomes, in fact, undermine the very reason migrants have long aspired to emigrate to America.

Congressman Roy’s bill is a reasonable effort to deter abuse of our asylum policies, expedite protection for those who legitimately deserve it, and preserve a functioning society that can deliver a safe and dignified existence for its members. Unfortunately, the positions staked out by USCCB in opposing this commonsense proposal represent the antithesis of these goals.

Mark Morgan is former acting director of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and a current senior fellow at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

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