Illegal Aliens Filling the Morgues of Maverick County, TX

Illegal Aliens Filling the Morgues of Maverick County, TX
Screenshot | Twitter | Auden Cabello

KRGV — the ABC affiliate in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley (RGV) — reported recently that the morgues in Maverick County, Texas, are “running out of space” due to the number of migrants found dead on the Rio Grande at a rate of one body per day.

Two weeks later, Fox News reported that the Biden administration has “awarded $41 million in taxpayer-backed government contracts to a new liberal nonprofit working to help illegal immigrants fight deportation amid the escalating border crisis”. There’s a lot tying those grants — and the administration’s border policies generally — to the morgues of Maverick County.

Refrigerated Trailers to Handle the Dead. Eagle Pass is the county seat of Maverick County, and KRGV quoted the town’s fire chief, Manuel Melo III, who explained his jurisdiction is recovering one migrant found dead daily, “approximately 30 a month”, although he admitted: “There were some days where we did recover six bodies.”

There is a lot in that one statement. First, if you have never been there, Maverick County at 1,287 square miles is big (about 20 percent larger than Rhode Island), but with a population of just over 58,000, is also sparsely populated. Nearly half of the county’s residents live in Eagle Pass, itself largely just a dusty outpost on the ride from Laredo to Del Rio.

It’s no wonder that, at a rate of one body per day, the local morgues (capacity: fewer than eight) are overwhelmed. As KRGV reports:

In a scene eerily similar to the height of the pandemic, the dead are being stored in refrigerated trucks. The county is also currently borrowing a refrigerated trailer from Eagle Pass with the capacity to store up to 30 bodies.

Jeannie Smith, a Maverick County justice of the peace for Precinct 3-2, explains that the recovery and disposition of the corpses is “causing a strain on the county” (likely an understatement), while according to KRGV, the local medical examiner is — not surprisingly — facing a backlog in cases.

Open Borders and the Untold Dangers of Illegal Migration. Second, and most importantly, each of the dead was a human being with a family, hopes, plans, a life. They showed up at the Southwest border to enter illegally because their hopes and plans were to continue that life in this country.

And why wouldn’t they? Ever since Joe Biden was sworn in as president, and administration assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, the U.S. border hasn’t just been open, it’s been nonexistent for all intents and purposes.

In fact, Biden’s DHS Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, has admitted that the administration’s objective is not to “sharply reduce the total number of illegal immigrants coming across the southern border”, but rather “to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system” once they have entered. I will get back to that point below.

While the administration can spend tens of millions in taxpayer dollars to provide transportation, food, and shelter for illegal entrants once they are on this side of the border, there is little to nothing it can do to make the trip to our Southwest border any safer.

That is the nature of the illicit trek north, particularly given the fact that the journey is largely stage-managed by rapacious (in the truest sense of the word) smugglers and criminal cartels on the other side.

Many would argue that migrants understand and accept the risks before setting out from their home countries, but I seriously doubt that is true. What kind of parents would knowingly expose themselves and their children to rape, robbery, kidnap, and extortion, let alone “dangerous and terrifying crossings in remote desert areas, across rivers, over fences, and through razor wire”, if they understood those dangers ahead of time?

As I explained back in 2018, there was a time (under the Obama administration) that outlets as diverse as NPR and National Geographic reported on those dangers, likely because they were taking their lead from the White House. When was the last time that you heard President Biden, Vice President Harris, or any other administration official talk about the hellish journey to illegally enter the United States?

Why the silence since? I can offer a couple of opinions, one of which is that migrant deaths — to say nothing of rapes, robberies, and assaults — paint the administration’s border policies in a bad light. That said, it is undeniably true — as my colleague Mark Krikorian explained a year ago — that such policies create an “attractive nuisance” to the illegal migrants coming to take advantage of them.

Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. “Attractive nuisance” is a tort doctrine, generally defined as “a dangerous condition on a landowner's property that may particularly attract children onto the land and pose a risk to their safety”. Think unfenced pools and ladders left propped against houses.

Most of those illegal entrants are not children (though more than a hundred thousand under Biden have been), but as Krikorian explained, consistent with that doctrine, “if you don’t put a fence around your country, and migrants suffer harm trying to get in, your government is liable”.

Not only has the Biden administration drawn illegal migrants to enter at their peril by increasingly facilitating their indefinite presence in this country once they make it to this side of the line, but also by providing them with food, shelter, and transportation here. Which brings me to the $41 million in grants to provide them with lawyers in the United States.

Immigration violations can be both criminal and civil offenses. Illegal entry is a misdemeanor as a first offense carrying a maximum sentence of six months, and consequently a charge for that crime does not trigger a constitutional right to counsel. Not that the administration is prosecuting many illegal entrants anyway.

Illegal entry is also a civil violation, which renders the offender removable from the United States. Although section 292 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that aliens in removal proceedings “shall have the privilege of being represented”, that provision is clear that any such representation shall be “at no expense to the Government”.

How, then, is the Biden administration providing grants to provide lawyers to aliens facing removal? Good question.

As I explained in July, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “ensure, to the greatest extent practicable” that all unaccompanied alien children [UACs] apprehended by DHS “have counsel to represent them in legal proceedings or matters and protect them from mistreatment, exploitation, and trafficking”.

Similar language appeared in the Homeland Security Act (HSA), as well. That said, both the HSA and TVPRA make clear that the provision of such counsel for UACs must be consistent with section 292 of the INA — which, as noted, provides for representation, but not at government expense.

Despite this fact, the HHS FY 2022 funding bill provided $300 million “for legal services, post-release services, and child advocates” for UACs. Whether the $41 million in grants for lawyers to which Fox News refers is part of that funding is unclear from its reporting.

That said, it should not be the policy of the United States government to encourage aliens to enter the United States illegally at their peril, and that is particularly true when it comes to children. But that is exactly what funding schemes of the sort to which Fox News refers do — they provide incentives, in the form of paid counsel, drawing aliens to risk life, safety, and dignity to enter illegally.

Not only does such funding provide incentives to would-be migrants, but it also sends out a message to the world that the United States is not serious about enforcing its laws or its borders. That’s even though, as former President Obama explained last September, “[W]e're a nation state. We have borders. The idea that we can just have open borders is something that ... as a practical matter, is unsustainable.”

Through the end of August, Border Patrol agents have engaged in nearly 20,500 searches and rescues at the Southwest border in FY 2022, more than four times the total during the “border emergency” in FY 2019. Why are so many aliens risking their lives and the lives of those agents? The Biden administration isn’t trying to stop them from coming and, worse, is providing them incentives once they get here. That’s what ties the president’s border policies to the overwhelmed morgues of Maverick County, Texas.

This article was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.


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