At first, Maria Salinas didn't understand why her guide was offering her birth control. Of all the things she could take on her trip through the desert, why this? Later on, she says, it made sense. The money she paid to get to the U.S. border was nothing, she found out, compared to the real cost.
"These coyotes [guides and smugglers] know what they're going to do in the middle of nowhere," Maria says quietly from a soup kitchen in Nogalas. For most women, the entire trip is one, non-stop sexual assault. When she couldn't keep up with her group, one of the coyotes leading Maria's caravan said he'd wait for her -- but only if he could have sex with her daughter. She refused, and he left them. If it weren't for Border Patrol, Maria remembers, they would have died. "It's awful," she shakes her head, "making this trip as a woman."
Younger girls are even bigger targets. Older men promise their parents they'll take them to America, only to sell them to brothels by the border or force them into sex slavery once they get there. Along towns like Mapastepec and Frontera Comalapa, the houses of prostitution are full of young women who were tricked or trafficked. Their moms or dads send them anyway, knowing with 80 percent certainty in some countries that they'll be raped -- or never seen again.
That's just part of the "cycle of suffering" President Trump is talking about. "Women and children are the biggest victims, by far, of our broken system," the president pointed out. And the compassionate response isn't sitting by and letting our porous border give these thugs more business. The compassionate response isn't encouraging more parents to gamble with their kids' lives by leaving more loopholes open to abuse. The compassionate response is enforcing the law -- not just for their safety, but for ours.
While the media's attention is usually on the hardship of these immigrants, they're far from the only victims. When drug smugglers and gang members cross into the U.S., they rarely leave their culture of violence behind. "In the last two years, ICE officers made 266,000 arrests of aliens with criminal records," the president said during his primetime appeal for more border security last night, "including those charged or convicted of 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 violent killings." Thousands of Americans -- from 16-year-old girls to Air Force veterans -- have been viciously murdered by the wave of criminals entering our country illegally. "This is a humanitarian crisis," the president insisted. But more than that, it's a crisis for the future of our country. Every American is hurt -- either physically, or emotionally, or economically by the people who refuse to enter our country legally.
The 1,933 miles separating the U.S. from Mexico is also feeding our country's catastrophic drug addiction. Ninety percent of the heroin making its way into America is streaming across our southern border. The cost of those illegal drugs -- and others -- is more than $500 billion a year. "Vastly more," the president points out, "than the $5.7 billion we have requested from Congress."
A wall may not solve everything, but it will solve some things. Take Yuma, Arizona, for instance. "The area had only about five miles of fencing in the mid-2000s, then saw the extent of its fencing increase tenfold. Illegal crossings plummeted," NRO's Rich Lowry points out. A wall, he argues, is actually a mild form of enforcement. It "doesn't involve deporting anyone. It doesn't separate families. It doesn't prosecute and detain anyone. It doesn't deny any illegal immigrant currently working in the United States a job. All it does is seek to avoid getting in a situation where these other things are necessary in the first place." A wall, Rich writes, "doesn't close down the border, or close us off to the world."
But a wall is a reminder that we are a nation of laws, whose first commitment is to protect the people inside. Congressional Democrats may not be interested in real solutions. But until they are, there's little hope of preserving the America that so many people are desperate to call home.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.