By Nathan Worcester
Former President Donald J. Trump was famous for talking tough about illegal immigration. In fact, his reputation as an enforcer appears to have resonated south of the Rio Grande.
“Trump’s tough-on-the-border rhetoric makes its way down to Mexico and Central America, and it drives people’s decisions. They know it’s going to be a less welcoming environment on the border,” said Texan writer Henry Chappell.
Mr. Chappell was speaking on July 11 with Helen Andrews, a senior editor at The American Conservative. In June, the magazine published Mr. Chappell’s report from the crisis zone, “A Texas Border Tour.”
Ms. Andrews had asked Mr. Chappell about the steep rise in crossings after President Joe Biden entered the White House. What caused such a huge change when Mr. Biden took the reins from Mr. Trump?
“Is it vibes, or is it the actual things they’re doing?” she asked.
“I think both, but the vibes are very, very important,” Mr. Chappell answered, pointing out that many would-be migrants get information from family members who are already in the United States.
The Biden administration, he said, “allowed into its upper ranks immigration activists who are ideological in their outlook.”
“They were probably radicalized through battling the Trump administration for four years prior to that,” he said.
No Bars on the Border
Mr. Chappell described scenes that might surprise those who believe all illegal immigrants are the tired, poor, huddled masses in Emma Lazarus’s “New Colossus,” let alone the hardy settlers in “How the West Was Won.”
“They have all the technology at their disposal we have,” he said.
“One of the rangers told me that the most common request he gets from migrants who approach him out of the brush, rather boldly at times, is to charge their cell phones,” Mr. Chappell continued.
Ms. Andrews and Mr. Chappell discussed the influence and attitude of the cartels, which smuggle drugs and humans across a remarkably porous border.
“The cartels are a business, okay? They want as little attention from law enforcement as they can manage,” he said.
In the scorching borderland, the businessmen of the cartels have to make cold-blooded decisions.
“The brush guides keep a very strict schedule… If there are problems, they’re not going to take a chance. They just leave them [migrants],” Mr. Chappell said.
Asked about conservatives’ misconceptions regarding the border, he noted that the South Texas counties suffering the most from the open border are mostly quite Hispanic.
“It’s not a bunch of gringos down there complaining,” he said.
“Do you think there is any future for the Republican Party among these Hispanic voters down at the border?” Ms. Andrews asked, noting that Mr. Trump gained among that constituency in 2020.
“I don’t think it’s going to be turned upside down. But yes, yes I do. I think a lot of people are frustrated,” Mr. Chappell said.
An Upward Trend
The latest Border Patrol statistics on southwest border land encounters show such incidents have generally trended upward in the last few years. Those numbers don’t include border crossers who never make contact with authorities.
Part of that influx is a surge in illegal border crossers from China and Russia. That has worried House Republicans such as Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas).
“I have heard directly from sheriffs in my district that they apprehended multiple individuals from the PRC [People’s Republic of China] who were deemed ‘high value targets’ and were taken into custody by the FBI,” Mr. Pfluger said in June.
“The PRC and our foreign adversaries are expanding their spheres of influence in Latin America—essentially in our backyard,” he added.
The mass movement of immigrants, both legal and illegal, into the United States is part of a global trend across the West–sometimes even when putative conservatives are in charge.
Under the rule of Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, for example, migration into the United Kingdom hit a new record in 2022.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican whose name has sometimes been mentioned as a 2024 presidential contender, has come in for criticism from journalist Michael Yon.
“Texas‘ border is wide open. Abbott is a WEF [World Economic Forum] stooge,” Mr. Yon wrote on Twitter in a post detailing the Colony Ridge development north of Houston that houses tens of thousands of illegal aliens.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Mr. Abbott for comment.
Mr. Chappell said that the people he met on the border are “talking about” Colony Ridge.
“It certainly is an obvious business opportunity,” he continued.
He pointed out that Texas’s state-level law enforcement at the border can strike a tougher stance than their federal counterparts, now under the leadership of Mr. Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Still, the Texans’ authority is fairly limited.
“The best thing they can do is just to keep them from getting to Border Patrol and keep them from crossing the river,” Mr. Chappell said.
He also had positive things to say about the state’s border czar, Gov. Abbott appointee Mike Banks.
“He has connections that allow him to get information that the rest of us can’t get,” Mr. Chapell said.
“He knows what he’s doing,” he added
The Epoch Times’ Charlotte Cuthbertson has documented the crisis at the southern border in an upcoming documentary, “Gotaways,” that will be released on EpochTV.com on July 28.