Border Security Crackdown: It's for the (Mexican) Children!


Federal prosecutors are cracking down on people who bring the children of illegal immigrants into the United States, reports the Arizona Republic:

A church acquaintance approached Brenda Aguirre with a proposition early last year. Would Aguirre, a U.S. citizen, be willing to bring two Mexican children into the United States illegally?

All she had to do was pick them up in Agua Prieta, Sonora, pretend they were her children and drive them back across the border and up to Phoenix. For her trouble, Aguirre, 25, would receive $500, plus the satisfaction of knowing the children would be reunited with their undocumented parents without a potentially deadly trek through the desert.

But things didn't go as planned. An entry port official in Douglas became suspicious when Aguirre presented Arizona birth certificates for her own kids, not the two Mexican children. Now, Aguirre is going to prison for 15 months. The children were sent back to Mexico.

Not all of the smugglers seem as altruistic as Aguirre, and there are reports that some children have been drugged during passage (though no evidence that kids have been seriously harmed). In 2003, legislators instituted a "zero-tolerance" policy for the practice. As a result, bringing a child through an official port of entry now carries a stronger penalty than marching the same child through the desert to the border. The crackdown will probably encourage more parents to choose the latter–and more dangerous–option. The punchline:

The policy is keeping children out of harm's way, government officials say.

Aside from the incentive problem, note that being "out of harm's way" involves being parentless. In Mexico.

Elsewhere in Reason: Malia Politzer spends some quality time with the border patrol here, and Tony Snow hearts illegal immigrants here.