In March, an eye-opening New York Times report elaborated on the humanitarian catastrophe involving migrants subjected to sexual violence and gang rape by cartels and traffickers at our beleaguered southern border. The Times reported:
On America’s southern border, migrant women and girls are the victims of sexual assaults that most often go unreported, uninvestigated and unprosecuted. Even as women around the world are speaking out against sexual misconduct, migrant women on the border live in the shadows of the #MeToo movement.
The stories are many, and yet all too similar. Undocumented women making their way into American border towns have been beaten for disobeying smugglers, impregnated by strangers, coerced into prostitution, shackled to beds and trees and — in at least a handful of cases — bound with duct tape, rope or handcuffs.
The New York Times found dozens of documented cases through interviews with law enforcement officials, prosecutors, federal judges and immigrant advocates around the country, and a review of police reports and court records in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. The review showed more than 100 documented reports of sexual assault of undocumented women along the border in the past two decades, a number that most likely only skims the surface, law enforcement officials and advocates say.
As Rachel Bovard argued shortly thereafter at American Greatness, the Times' report highlighted a "serious and endemic crisis of assault." Tragically, as Bovard persuasively pointed out, "as long as our asylum laws encourage illegal immigration through ease of entry and catch and release; as long as migrants believe that putting their lives in the hands of a coyote is worth it; as long as illegal immigrants know it is more advantageous to show up with a child than to come alone, this epidemic of sexual assault will not only sustain itself, it will grow."
But not enough attention is paid to the remarkably profitable nature of human smuggling and trafficking for the transnational cartel enterprises.
Helping to shine a light on this aspect of our border crisis is a recent report from the non-partisan RAND Corporation entitled, "Human Smuggling from Central America to the United States." In the report, RAND researchers find that drug trafficking-centric transnational cartels "control primary smuggling corridors into the United States" and estimate that the total "revenues to all types of smugglers, not just [transnational cartels], from smuggling migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, combined, ranged from about $200 million to about $2.3 billion in 2017."
In other words, cartels and trafficking rings earned as much as $2.3 billion from human smuggling just in the year 2017. This is a humanitarian nightmare, and we ignore it at our peril.
One possible solution, offered from the same RAND report, is for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to "consider expanding existing efforts to investigate payments to human smugglers, especially in the United States, and working more closely with formal and informal banking services to identify suspicious payments." Another legislative option, which at least some in Congress appear to be considering, is to tighten our porous asylum regime. Another solution is for either Congress or the DHS itself to vitiate the much-ballyhooed and misbegotten Flores consent decree that hamstrings the Trump administration's immigration enforcement efforts at our southern border.