Sanctuary Policies Finance Crime and Death, Here and Abroad

Andrew R. Arthur, Center for Immigration Studies


Anything that promotes recourse to smugglers is a bad thing, because smugglers are, simply put, bad people. They are really just in it for the money, and have very little concern for the lives, safety, or well-being of their “customers”. As importantly, however, money paid to smugglers often makes its way to the very groups whose violent activities abroad have spurred the exodus of those aliens. That money also helps finance those groups in spreading misery and death in the United States.

A recent report underscores these facts.

The report, titled “Human smuggling equals great danger, big money”, was recently issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In that report, ICE explains the “business side” of alien smuggling:

“Human smuggling operates as a contract business; an understanding exists among transnational criminal organizations [TCOs], smugglers and individuals seeking transport that trying to cross the border independently is not an option. {snip}”

Who are these TCOs, and what are “their other criminal enterprises”? Among the TCOs identified by the Treasury Department are Los Zetas and MS-13. Treasury states that:

“MS-13 consists of at least 30,000 members in a range of countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, and is one of the most dangerous and rapidly expanding criminal gangs in the world today. MS-13 is active within the United States, with at least 8,000 members operating in more than 40 states and the District of Columbia. {snip}

“Local MS-13 cliques take direction from the group’s foreign leadership for strategic decisions involving moves into new territories and efforts to recruit new members. Money generated by local MS-13 cliques in the U.S. is consolidated and funneled to the group’s leadership in El Salvador.”

Treasury describes Los Zetas as follows:

“Formerly the armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas is an extremely violent transnational criminal organization based primarily in Mexico. The organization is estimated to have thousands of members in Mexico, Central America and the United States. {snip}

“Los Zetas members are responsible for mass murders in Mexico and Guatemala, and have demonstrated their capacity and willingness to intimidate and brazenly kill law enforcement and other government personnel. {snip}”

As immigration judge, I heard hundreds of asylum claims from aliens from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico. Many if not most involved these two groups, or their criminal rivals.

The vast majority of the claims from the former three countries involved some threat from MS-13. For example, young men would allege that the gang attempted to recruit them, or targeted them because of their religious faith, or sought to extort money from them. Young women would allege that gang members attempted to forcibly recruit them as “girlfriends” for the gang members, or alternatively, had tried to abuse them sexually. Mothers would assert that their efforts to protect their children from the predations of gang members placed their own lives in danger. {snip}

Similar claims were made about Los Zetas by Mexican nationals. Mexican asylum applicants also claimed that this TCO (or one of its rivals) was attempting to forcibly seize family property (generally farms) to use for illicit purposes such as drug cultivation, or attempted to force the applicant to smuggle drugs or other contraband to the United States. A smaller subset of claims alleged that the applicant had been a witness to one of Los Zetas crimes or to its criminal operations, and that the TCO sought to kill the applicant in order to silence him or her.


I’ve just finished reading a November 15, 2017, decision from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, The City of Philadelphia v. Sessions, which addressed (and largely rebuffed) efforts by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to deny $1.6 million in funding to that city because of its refusal to cooperate with ICE. With all due respect to the judge who issued that decision, and the city of Philadelphia, the facts above seem lost on them.

Each treats that municipality like a bubble, and the aliens unlawfully present in that city as living under the protection of that bubble. Most significantly, each operates under an apparent notion that the illegal aliens in that city fall into two categories: nonimmigrants who entered lawfully and overstayed, and aliens who did not comply with legal entry procedures but who have made their way to that city.

Neither the city, nor the court for that matter, appears to have given any thought to the process by which the latter group of aliens entered illegally. More importantly, however, each failed to consider the “downstream” consequences of that illegal entry, as described above.

This is not to target either the city or the court for particular blame; every “sanctuary jurisdiction” (whenever its policies) either through ignorance or “willful blindness” overlooks or pays no attention to the fact that money given to smugglers pays for human misery, and the destabilization of democratic institutions in the very countries from which those aliens hail. {snip}


On the streets of Philadelphia, police officers wear white or blue blouses, dark pants, and eight-point hats (including an optional mesh version for summer wear). They are issued Kevlar vests and helmets; the vests must be worn with limited exceptions, but the standard headwear is the aforementioned hat. They drive Fords, Chevy, or Dodge sedans, or the occasional SUV, white, with a blue and gold stripe. They generally present a welcoming and protective image.

In Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, which sits across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, however, the police situation is very different. {snip}


The view of the local populace in Matamoros toward the police is different from that in Philadelphia, as well. As State describes the security situation that city:

“Police corruption and police involvement in criminal activity is common. Consequently, citizens are often indifferent to police authority, adding to the sense of lawlessness. The general perception is that the majority of victims do not report crimes due to fear of reprisals by the police, the belief that police are corrupt, or the feeling that nothing would come from such reports. The net result is that most crimes go unreported or uninvestigated. Generally, police receive low wages, are vulnerable to corruption, and receive less training than their U.S. counterparts. Police enjoy little respect from the general population.”

And the source of that corruption? It is largely driven by TCOs:


That said, the “Philadelphia bubble” and the “Matamoros bubble” do have one thing in common, the thing those Mexican officers blamed for the violence they had to combat: illegal drugs.


Put another way, the seeds of Philly’s drug crime and deaths are sown in Mexican fields by the TCOs whose operations are financed, in part, by the smugglers of the aliens who were drawn to the United States (in part) by the promise that once they were in a city that refuses full cooperation with ICE (like Philadelphia), they could live largely untouched by the threat of removal. {snip}


Not to be maudlin or tendentious, but the blanket that Philadelphia wraps around its illegal population is the same blanket that is pulled over the heads of the innocent victims in Matamoros, and that ironically shrouds the bodies of the overdose victims in the “City of Brotherly Love”.

And the vicious circle, controlled by the TCOs, continues.