- - Monday, October 24, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Some proponents of the current open borders policy also claim to be defenders of women’s rights. It is, therefore, supremely ironic that one unintended consequence of open borders is a substantial spike in sex trafficking of young girls. That’s the major takeaway of a trip to South Texas earlier this month.

Through the good offices of a longtime Texas Republican official and Reagan appointee, as well as a high school classmate who is a rancher in South Texas, I met separately with federal, Texas state and local officials with border responsibilities — six ethnically diverse men, a mix of Democrats and Republicans. My initial mission was to discuss the heroin epidemic from China and Mexico sweeping the United States, and they were more than willing to discuss drugs, but in each case they voluntarily shifted into a discussion of the sex trafficking of young girls. It was clear both from their words and their body language that they are highly offended by this practice and wish more official attention were paid to it.

One of the county officials told me this recent story: Border officials stopped a car. Training and instinct told them the driver was “dirty” but they didn’t know why. The K-9 team checked the car. Nothing. Agents trained to find hollows built into the car searched it but found no drugs, no drug money and no stolen guns. Then one of the officers had an inspiration: “The contraband was right in front of us. It was the 13-year-old girl sitting in the seat beside him.”

Atascosa County is the first rural county south of San Antonio. At the end of April the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Atascosa County District Attorney Rene Pena announced a 86-count indictment of 29 people for sex trafficking young girls. Twenty-three people were arrested; the rest escaped to Mexico. Law enforcement officers picked up seven illegal aliens and located stolen cars, cash and stolen guns. This bust was the result of a two-year investigation of organized crime by the DPS and local officials. Mr. Pena reported that girls as young as 13 were smuggled in from Mexico and were being forced into prostitution by the gang.

An important aspect of sex trafficking and this case is its intimate connection to the Mexican drug cartels. DPS Director Steven McCraw was right on point when he told the San Antonio press, “There is nothing more depraved than using people as a commodity. Nothing comes across [the border] without the cartels getting a piece of the action.” Further, he noted, “We have to recognize that the commodity we’re talking about is not a drug but a person’s life.” Referring to the Mexican cartels, one of the federal officials told me, “It’s all about the money. That’s all they care about.” Mr. Pena indicted the 29 in Atascosa County for money laundering, among other crimes. Sex trafficking worldwide is thought to be a $32 billion a year business.

One of the federal officials asked me rhetorically, “All these stories about unaccompanied minors crossing the border, nearly all of them are boys. Where are the girls?” He answered his own question: “The girls are already gone. The cartels spot them and haul them off the buses coming to the Mexican side of the border. They target the 13- to 15-year-olds.” Some of the girls end up in brothels in Mexico. But many of them are smuggled into the United States, where they become sex slaves forced into prostitution in floating stash houses, moved from one city to the next every few days.

According to officials, even American citizens are victims of this crime. Hooked on the cartel’s heroin, many of the young girls are trafficked south to Mexico and never seen again. The families are threatened if their children are reported missing. Other children are moved into the cartels’ U.S. sex slave operations. In January, Mr. Pena told the commissioners of neighboring Karnes County that his office had been able to recover ” 12 little girls between the ages of 10 and 16.” Further, he said, “What we are finding out is that it is U.S. citizens — our own kids, from our own district, coming from different parts of the world, basically, good homes, some broken homes, some single-parent homes, some kids who have problems who are ideal people to lure into the trade.”

We have known that open borders means open to drug smuggling and all the pain and sorrow that encompasses. Now we know sex trafficking is also part of the equation.

In the words of Atascosa County District Attorney Rene Pena: “Why is human trafficking important? It is important because it is a crime against humanity. It is destroying young lives.”

William C. Triplett II is the former chief Republican counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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