Introduction: In a conversation hosted by the Migration Policy Institute, Blas Nunez-Neto, the deputy for border and immigration policy at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), acknowledged that the catch-and-release policies of the federal government are contributing to the growth of cartels. These policies allow more migrants to enter American jobs, thereby expanding the reach and wealth of criminal organizations.
The Lucrative Smuggling Business: Nunez-Neto revealed that migrants are now paying significant sums, often exceeding $10,000 to $15,000, to smuggling organizations to help them cross the border. This profitable venture has led to an increase in drug cartels’ involvement in human smuggling, not only in Mexico but also in countries like Colombia and the Darien Gap region.
The Allure of U.S. Jobs: The deputy DHS official acknowledged that the cartels’ growing participation in smuggling is driven by their ability to deliver migrants into the U.S. job market. Once migrants enter the immigration court system and file asylum paperwork, they become eligible for Employment Authorization, allowing them to stay in the U.S. for years, earn money, and support their families back home.
Backlog of Asylum Claims: The backlog of asylum claims created by Alejandro Mayorkas and his deputies serves as an incentive for further migration. The lengthy processing times encourage migrants to view the court system as a way to work in the United States while their cases are pending.
Cartels and the Humanitarian Front: The Biden administration’s portrayal of migration as a humanitarian issue and the subsequent registration and release of migrants into the labor market has worsened the backlog. This delay in processing asylum claims benefits migrants who know their claims are unlikely to be accepted.
The Administration’s Approach: Nunez-Neto suggested that the administration is attempting to address the cartel problem by expanding the asylum system to accommodate the increasing number of migrants arriving since 2021. However, critics argue that even with more resources, the demand for illegal immigration is limitless, and reducing incentives for migrants to come is the only effective solution.
In Conclusion: The growing concern over cartels’ involvement in smuggling and the expansion of their human trafficking operations highlight the complexities and challenges of managing migration at the U.S. southern border. The Biden administration must navigate a delicate balance, providing humanitarian assistance to migrants while protecting the integrity of the immigration system and national security. This situation calls for comprehensive reforms that address the root causes of migration and establish a more secure and efficient immigration process.