A U.S. senator was stunned during his recent border trip when he saw an illegal immigrant who’d just jumped the boundary in a Versace dress.
Sen. James Lankford, fresh off a Memorial Day trip to the border in Yuma, Arizona, reported back to colleagues this week on the piles of wall-building materials he saw rusting in the elements, just a mile down the road from a gap in the border wall where migrants could pour through with ease.
The Oklahoma Republican said illegal crossers will step over the boundary and wait for Border Patrol agents to come to pick them up, figuring — usually correctly — that they’ll be processed and quickly released into the U.S. to go on to their destinations.
That was the case for the Versace-wearing woman.
“When I got to the processing area, one of the Border Patrol agents walked up to me and said, ‘You see the lady behind you?’ And I turned around and said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘She’s wearing a Versace dress,’” Mr. Lankford recounted on the Senate floor.
“I said, ‘That should probably mean something to me as a guy but it doesn’t.’ My wife explained to me later that’s a pretty expensive dress. Why are we seeing people like that crossing the border? Because it’s easier to come in illegally into the country now than it is legally,” the lawmaker said.
SEE ALSO: Feds bust extensive Uber smuggling ring at northern border
Yuma has become a key crossing point for well-to-do migrants from across the globe.
Unlike most Central American migrants, who spend months trekking up to the U.S., often on foot, in Yuma, many of the new arrivals are flying into Mexicali, a city on the Mexican side, then hopping on charter buses to be driven to places like the border wall gap near Yuma — a form of “glam migration” available to those with means.
“I could see it. They’ll literally step across the border and stand there and wait for the Border Patrol to come pick them up,” Mr. Lankford said.
They even tote their luggage. Mr. Lankford said the Border Patrol has had to put a weight limit on how much migrants can carry with them as they’re picked up in buses and shipped to stations where they’ll go through the catch-and-release process.
In February 2020 when the Trump administration was in control and the pandemic had yet to hit, the Border Patrol’s Yuma sector recorded just 1,002 illegal immigrant apprehensions. In 2021, just as Mr. Biden took over, it soared to 5,128. And by this year, agents nabbed 20,860 illegal immigrants in February.
That rose to 30,505 in March, and settled down to 27,343 in April.
SEE ALSO: Justices rule double-dealing migrant smuggler can’t sue Border Patrol agent
Just 2,550 of those April apprehensions were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the countries that usually dominate illegal border crossings. But about 17,000 were from Cuba and Colombia.
The other factor drawing people to Yuma is that the Biden administration is rarely using the Title 42 pandemic border shutdown policy in the sector. Of the more than 27,000 migrants nabbed in Yuma in April, just 1,764 were returned to Mexico under Title 42 — just 6%. Across the rest of the border, the rate was 53%.
Mr. Lankford said the situation has reduced Border Patrol agents to an Uber XL service, running vans of migrants from the border to the processing stations.
It also means agents have been pulled off line-watch so they’re largely unable to try to monitor the real dangerous crossings, and they’ve also been pulled from the highway checkpoints that used to serve as a secondary wall, helping keep drugs and illegal immigrants in a buffer zone near the border.
“The open desert areas not far from here where they know the drug traffickers are actually moving large quantities of drugs, they don’t have enough agents to be able to patrol that anymore,” Mr. Lankford said. “They can see them on cameras. They just don’t have enough people to get to it.”