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Congressman's View: Our policy of inaction is failing at the southern border

Pete Stauber

Too often Washington gets mired down into talking points that bombard our 24-hour cable TV networks and instantly overwhelm our smartphones with tweets, posts, and snaps. Minnesotans in the Eighth District didn't send me to Congress to parrot talking points. I want to learn about the challenging issues our nation faces and humbly do my small part to fix them.

That is why, during the recent congressional break, I traveled to the U.S. border with Mexico to cut through the noise and to learn more about the challenges our federal agencies and agents face as they try to protect our borders and enforce our laws.

This was not a political trip. Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, invited both Democrats and Republicans on this fact-finding mission. During the trip, we met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as local law enforcement officials and residents who witness hundreds of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S. through our southern border every day.

To be clear: I support legal immigrants who aspire to live the American dream. America was founded by immigrants, immigrants continue to enrich our nation, and our rich heritage and diversity should be celebrated. But in order to continue this legacy we must fix our broken immigration system and establish a strong, functioning immigration system.

Sadly, through no fault of the men and women serving our country on the southern border, a strong, functioning immigration system is not in place.

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb took me through the desert and showed the garbage-lined path that drug smugglers, human traffickers, and illegal immigrants travel. I stood on the banks of the Colorado River where scores of illegal immigrants wade through the waist-high water every night and pour over the border. Accompanied by the DEA, I took an aerial tour of the vast stretches of border our law enforcement officials monitor daily and witnessed our vulnerabilities. I was briefed by Customs and Border Protection agents at the San Luis Port of Entry and even spoke with Arizona residents on their own private land near the border where they see dozens of illegal immigrants sneak past their property every single day.

In conversations I had with DEA agents, ICE agents, Customs and Border agents, and local law enforcement, their message to me was the same: While those serving our country on the southern border are well-trained and highly motivated, they are overwhelmed. And Congress is letting them down. Congress is letting all Americans down.

Make no mistake: The amount of human and drug trafficking on our southern border is at epidemic levels. Children are being rented and purchased by drug cartels so adults can get across the border. Children are being exploited as "family members" and then brought back to Guatemala or Honduras to be put back in the arms of other adults who want to enter our country illegally. Sixth-grade boys and girls are getting stopped at the border with drugs duct taped to their waists and legs in an effort to deliver to drug lords on the other side. Women and girls are falling victim to horrific rape and sexual assault during their thousand-mile journeys.

Tons of drugs are being seized at the border, including fentanyl, heroin, and meth — some of which, without a doubt, ends up destroying lives right here in northern Minnesota. The DEA showed me confiscated fentanyl that would kill 11 million people. I saw with my own eyes how unfenced areas along the southern border are drug-trafficking freeways that ultimately lead to death and destruction, not only along the border but right here in our backyards.

Congress must work with President Donald Trump to provide ample funding to improve our technology, strengthen our infrastructure, and support and add more personnel on the border. Our strategy should include building more walls, fences, roads, lights, improved detention facilities, and a variety of other infrastructure necessary to strengthen our border security.

More than 24 years ago I took an oath to enforce the laws put in place by our government. We are a nation of law and order. It's what Northeastern Minnesotans tell me every day. The policy of inaction has long expired. For the safety and security of so many, the time to act is now.

Pete Stauber of Hermantown is a retired law enforcement officer who represents Minnesota's 8th Congressional District in the U.S. House.