Border Patrol chief highlights smuggling networks’ control over illegal immigration
03/27/2024 // News Editors // Views

According to Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens, smugglers are significantly influencing the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S., posing both humanitarian and national security challenges.

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United States Border Patrol (USBP) Chief Jason Owens has highlighted the substantial influence that criminal networks of people smugglers have on the current flow of illegal immigrants into the country. In a March 24 interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” Owens revealed that his agency is on track to apprehend over a million illegal immigrants since the beginning of 2024, with the majority of crossings being facilitated by these smuggling networks. Owens detailed how smugglers are effectively managing the flow of migrants and exploiting the humanitarian responses of border security, thereby stretching the agency’s resources thin and potentially allowing other illegal activities to occur unnoticed.

The challenge is compounded by the vastness of the U.S.-Mexico border, spanning over 1,900 miles, and the finite number of border patrol agents. Despite having 20,000 agents, Owens underscored the logistical difficulties in covering such a vast area continuously, emphasizing the strategic disadvantage this presents against well-organized smuggling operations.

Adding to the complexity of border enforcement efforts are the significant numbers of “gotaways,” individuals who cross the border undetected and unapprehended. Owens expressed particular concern over this group, labeling it a “national security threat.” With at least 140,000 people categorized as gotaways, the risk they pose is not trivial, especially considering the potential for among them to be individuals with malicious intent towards the United States. Former federal officials and security experts have raised alarms about the possibility that individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watchlist could be entering the U.S. amidst the vast numbers of migrants. In fiscal year 2023 alone, Border Patrol agents apprehended 172 people from the watchlist along the southwest border, with the total reaching 736 when including all ports of entry.

Despite these security concerns, Owens acknowledged that the vast majority of illegal immigrants are people seeking better lives, escaping from dire circumstances in their home countries. He noted that while these individuals might not have malevolent intentions, their actions strain the U.S. border security infrastructure and, by extension, can indirectly compromise the safety of American communities.

Owens advocated for stronger immigration policies to deter illegal entry into the United States, including potential jail time for violators and a reevaluation of the country’s asylum laws to ensure they cater only to those with legitimate claims. He emphasized the importance of enforcing existing immigration laws to maintain order and security at the border, arguing that clearer consequences for illegal entry could reduce the incentive for individuals to attempt crossing unlawally.

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