The New York Times ran a disturbing story in 2017. The piece, “A Path to America, Marked by More and More Bodies,” highlighted the extreme risks that some migrants, desperate for a better life, are willing to accept to enter the United States, despite not having any legal authorization to come here.
Many of these people — individual men and women, entire families, and sometimes even children sent alone — embark on a journey fraught with peril, led by extremely dangerous guides, across some of the harshest and most unforgiving terrain that our nation has to offer.
Too often, they never reach a place of safety within the United States. Many are rescued by our Border Patrol in bad condition, provided food, water and shelter, and eventually released or returned across the border. Those are the lucky ones.
Hundreds of illegal border crossers, however, perish in the wilds of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico each year. Sometimes, entire bodies are found. Often, however, it’s just skeletal remains.
They are found by ranchers, hikers, and law enforcement, likely having succumbed to dehydration, heatstroke, or hypothermia. Many are never identified or returned to their loved ones, who are left to guess at their fate.
The truth is that we don’t know how many people die in their effort to enter the United States illegally each year. It’s likely that many fall in remote places where they will never be found. We know that the death toll is at least in the hundreds, but maybe it’s much more.
Many of those who make the journey trust their passage to smugglers who they pay handsomely to help them cross. Once under way, they are completely at the mercy of criminals often associated with some of the most dangerous drug gangs in Mexico.
Some are robbed, abandoned, and left to fend for themselves with little direction after crossing the border with few supplies. The stories of sexual assault suffered by women and children who survive are chilling.
Others complete the journey, only to find themselves trafficked into prostitution or forced to work for minimal wages after being delivered to shady employers who confiscate their identification and passports, preventing efforts to escape.
The disturbing experiences suffered by many immigrants who attempt to enter the United States illegally is nothing less than a human catastrophe. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.
It’s a tragedy that well-intentioned lawmakers increasingly are responsible for fueling through the expansion of misguided sanctuary policies that, to many, make all of the danger associated with illegal border crossings seem worth the risk.
Here in New Jersey, the Murphy Administration and Democratic majorities in the Legislature have joined forces to rapidly expand the legal protections and valuable government benefits offered to illegal immigrants who take up residence in the Garden State.
Under the so-called “sanctuary state” policies they have advanced, millions of dollars have been appropriated through the state budget to pay for the legal costs of illegal immigrants living in New Jersey who are facing federal deportation proceedings.
The New Jersey attorney general has gone a step further by ordering state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies to not coordinate with or offer assistance to federal authorities in their efforts to enforce of our nation’s immigration laws.
Under state budgets approved during the Murphy era, millions of dollars in New Jersey taxpayer funds have been dedicated to providing college scholarships to those in the country illegally.
Many who qualify for this tuition assistance to the state’s colleges and universities likely would have received no such benefit in their country of origin or had the opportunity to pursue higher education at all.
Now, those lawmakers want to offer the privilege of New Jersey driver’s licenses as an additional benefit.
Legitimate arguments have been made that sanctuary state policies are not fair to those who follow the legal immigration process, add additional burden to overtaxed New Jerseyans, and undermine the rule of law that our civil society depends upon.
My primary concern, however, is a moral one.
Our state is sending the message that if you come to our country illegally, New Jersey will make you eligible for virtually all of the benefits of citizenship, including a driver’s license, we’ll pay for your children’s education, including college, and we’ll fight to keep you from being sent back to your home country.
New Jersey is enticing people with greater and greater promises to make an extremely dangerous journey that many will not survive. And too many others, whose faces we will never see, will be led into a life of servitude at the hands of smugglers, human traffickers, or other unscrupulous individuals.
If New Jersey lawmakers continue on the path of expanding our status as a sanctuary state, we will surely be complicit in abetting more of these tragedies.