By Congressman Jason Smith
America is a nation of immigrants. Historically, millions of persecuted and afflicted people around the world have found refuge and safe haven on American soil. But America is a nation of laws, and our generosity is being taken advantage of and our rule of law undermined. The caravan in Mexico is flagrantly disrespecting our laws and sovereignty, and tolerating it would be unfair to the people who want to enter our country the right way – legally and by swearing an oath to our Constitution.
This week more than 1,000 members of the migrant caravan in Mexico attempted to enter the United States illegally by force at our southern border. Unbelievably, the group pushed women and children to the front to be used as a human shield while the rest threw rocks, bricks, cement blocks, and bottles at border patrol agents. It’s a testament to the professionalism and preparedness of the Customs and Border Patrol that nobody on either side of the border was seriously injured, even as several agents were struck with projectiles.
Border Patrol agents knew to be prepared as the caravan that originated in Honduras violently entered Mexico weeks ago and has attacked police in two other countries. They were dealing with violent people – federal authorities have been able to identify over 600 individuals in the caravan who have been convicted of violent crimes including assault, battery, drug crimes, burglary, even rape and child abuse. And this week as most Americans were celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, CBP officials held the line at the border and endured the abuse. On one front they were attacked by immigrants at the border, and on another front by the media and leftist politicians trying to spin commonsense border security into an attack on President Trump.
The size, organization, and violent nature of the caravan required a heavier border patrol presence, but the burden on our immigration system will be long-term. A recent surge in attempted border crossings has drained valuable time and resources from a system where immigration facilities are packed beyond their capabilities. The thousands of migrants in the caravan who refuse to apply through our normal immigration channels will pile on to a backlog of immigration court cases, which has doubled in the last five years.
America is the most generous country in the world when it comes to legal immigration, accepting far more legal immigrants than any other country. I’ve attended multiple naturalization ceremonies, and it’s inspiring to see people who have put in the time and the work to become citizens swear an oath to our country and earn their citizenship.
There’s a right way to apply for asylum, which tens of thousands of people around the world do every year. In the last year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services set a new record, processing approximately 100,000 credible fear asylum claims. But the caravan storming our border drains vital resources from an already burdened immigration system, and tolerating it would be unfair to the citizens of this country and those who want to become citizens legally. The United States should reward those who follow proper immigration channels and respect our immigration laws, not those who violate our laws before reaching American soil.