The arrival of many thousands of unaccompanied immigrant minors to our southern border has reignited fierce debates over who is to blame, how they got to the border and what to do about it. We have witnessed the vociferous standoffs in Murietta, Calif., where the Border Patrol intended to process several hundred of this minors.
The clashing groups of pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant people required the Border Patrol to find another location for processing—less public and not near main roads.
Who was the winner in this standoff? The Drug Cartels of Mexico. [I capitalize their name because of the immense size, wealth and power of these drug and violence spewing groups.] I just returned from Mexico where I was able to learn the truth of this mass flooding of our border with frantic youth.
The cartel leaders are delighted to see all of the commotion at and near the border between Mexico and the U.S., as their incredible scheme works even more effectively when Border Patrol resources are diverted away from their smuggling drugs north, and cash and guns south.
The drug cartels pounced on the social and economic instability, as well as the endemic violence, gangs and frustration, found throughout Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. These cartels have set up local operations across all three countries, even taking out radio ads to entice people to accept the offer to get their children al norte—all with the feigned promise that the children will receive “permiso” to stay in the U.S. and will enjoy a bright future there. The cartels charge $7,000 to $8,000 per child to take them across Mexico to the U.S. border. Do the math: moving 40,000 immigrant youth north nets them from $280 million to $320 million—in cash, and upfront. Why are they able to get so many youth north? They literally own vast sections of Mexico, and they have their own protected routes.
While their “deal” is to get them across the border, often the youth are just dumped south of the border and left to fend on their own. It is a tragic victimization of these poor young people, a vicious form of human trafficking.
The real purpose of the cartels is not to help young people desperate to enter our country. Rather, it is to flood the border so that the Border Patrol is overwhelmed and forced to divert 85 percent of their officers to deal with the crush of young people. And while the Border Patrol is so occupied, the cartels move down the border some miles and transfer huge caches of narcotics into our country with virtually no resistance.
One example will suffice. In one sector along our border, normally 10 Border Patrol vehicles with two officers each would patrol that sector to stop people and drugs from moving north. The hordes of youth at the border have resulted in one patrol unit with two officers protecting the sector. The other nine units sit idle while their 18 officers are busy processing unaccompanied children and youth.
During this ingenious diversion, the cartels are also able to move south across the border millions and millions of dollars in drug money, along with new and better weapons.
The current border scenario is not just a tragic fluke bringing thousands of desperate youth to our borders. It is an evil and insidious plot hatched by the drug cartels to make more and more money. It is a business plan piled on the backs of children and youth. And sadly, it’s working for the cartels.
The cartel leaders are delighted that so many commentators across the country have blamed this border mess on the right wing, the left wing, liberals, conservatives, the Congress, the White House—take your pick. Their wicked illegal money-making plan is working just as designed.
We, as disciples of Jesus, must be careful that we don’t get caught up in the rhetoric created by the cartels’ scheme. Rather, we need to focus upon these desperate children and youth who have left home at great personal danger and cost seeking a better future. We were not responsible for their getting to our border. But we must see the face of Jesus in each one of them, and use our various Catholic apostolates and ministries to serve them in their dire need.
“For I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.” (Mt. 25:35)
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony is the retired archbishop of Los Angeles.