(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) today sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson to express concern over DHS’ current practices regarding human smuggling. According to a court order released by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, when DHS intercepts foreign children being smuggled into the country, they assist the process without penalizing the illegal parents’ actions or doing anything about their illegal status.
“I am shocked to learn that the federal government is a participant in international human smuggling,” Vitter said. “Not only does DHS support an incredibly dangerous practice, but it also completely disregards current immigration laws we have on the books. This is a safety and security issue that needs to be addressed by DHS immediately.”
Vitter is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Border Security Caucus and has been a leading opponent of the Gang of 8 immigration legislation because it ensures amnesty first with the promise of enforcement later.
The text of the letter is below.
The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
January 15, 2014
Dear Secretary Johnson:
I write today regarding recently released court documents detailing the Department of Homeland Security’s assistance in the completion of smuggling illegal alien minors.
According to a court order released on December 13, 2013, by Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the Department has made a practice of delivering foreign children to their parents illegally in this country if the child is apprehended in the process of being smuggled. Further, the Department turns a blind eye to the parents’ solicitation of smuggling as well as the illegal status of both the parents and the children, failing to administer any adverse consequences.
I am shocked to learn that the federal government is a participant in an international human smuggling conspiracy. I cannot imagine a case in which such a policy would be in accordance with the established mission of the Department, particularly since this encourages additional smuggling and the sometimes extreme abuse of the smuggled children involved.
In Judge Hanen’s December 13th order, Patricia Santos, an illegal alien residing in Virginia, solicited the services of Mirtha Nava-Martinez, a lawful permanent resident, to smuggle her ten-year-old daughter, “Y.P.S.”, into the United States. During the smuggling operation, Nava-Martinez was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Brownsville-Matamoros border inspection checkpoint. Y.P.S. was simultaneously taken into custody and officials were made aware of the details of the smuggling operation. Instead of seeking out Santos and deporting her for both illegal entry and participation in a human smuggling conspiracy, DHS officials safely delivered Y.P.S. to her in Virginia, thus completing the object of the criminal conspiracy. Moreover, the government informed Judge Hanen that it has no intention of filing charges against Santos or Y.P.S.
While the details of this case alone are troubling, Judge Hanen noted in the order that this is the fourth case of nearly identical facts he has encountered in as many weeks. “In all of the cases, human traffickers who smuggled minor children were apprehended short of delivering the children to their ultimate destination. In all cases, a parent, if not both parents, of the children was in this country illegally. That parent initiated the conspiracy to smuggle the minors into the country illegally. He or she also funded the conspiracy. In each case, the DHS completed the criminal conspiracy, instead of enforcing the laws of the United States, by delivering the minors to the custody of the parent illegally living in the United States.” 
It is beyond argument that easing the ability of immigrants to illegally enter and remain in the United States only encourages greater numbers of illegal border crossings. Specific to the smuggling of children, the Court’s order notes that the Texas sectors of the border saw an 81 percent increase in the apprehension of undocumented children between FY2010 and FY2012. This statistic alone should be proof enough that lax border policies and a failure to fully enforce the border security and immigration laws of our nation are not working.
Encouraging human smuggling enriches drug cartels that use violence as a means to an end, waging war on Mexican and American citizens alike. Worse, smugglers often play down the adverse conditions that can be expected during transport, providing the illusion of safe passage for the American dream. Instead, near-daily stories recount the physical abuse suffered by those being smuggled. These men, women, and children often face rape, extreme heat, severe dehydration and starvation, can be forced into the sex trade or indentured servitude, and are often abandoned and left for dead.
Government acquiescence to this behavior also has a grave effect on the morale of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who daily risk their lives to enforce our immigration laws and protect our nation. I am particularly surprised that a federal agency would assist an international criminal conspiracy after the disastrous Operation Fast & Furious directly resulted in the heinous murder of CBP Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
In the spirit of upholding the existing laws of the United States and preventing further denigration, I ask that you respond to a series of questions surrounding this policy at your earliest convenience, or by March 1, 2014.
The questions are as follows:
1. In the case of Patricia Santos and Y.P.S., what agency within the Department of Homeland Security was tasked with delivering Y.P.S. to Santos in Virginia? Is this same agency tasked with delivering undocumented children who find themselves in situations similar to that of Y.P.S.?
2. How long has the practice of delivering an apprehended, smuggled child to their parent been in place?
3. Exactly how many times has this practice occurred?
4. What statute(s) or regulation(s) authorizes the Department of Homeland Security or the above questioned agency to implement such a practice?
5. Who within the Department of Homeland Security authorized this practice?
6. Judge Hanen noted that subsequent to the Court’s inquiry into the Santos situation, the United States Attorney’s Office requested DHS place Santos in immigration proceedings, but that the Court did not have confirmation of action. Additionally, the government informed the Court that it would “not prosecute these wrongdoers”. Please provide a brief update on the immigration status of Patricia Santos and Y.P.S., and any charges they may be facing.
7. Title 8, Section 1227 of the United States Code specifies that legal immigrants residing in the United States can be deported from the United States if found to have “encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided any other alien to enter or to try to enter the United States in violation of law.” With this statute in mind, please provide a brief description of the actions taken against Mirtha Nava-Martinez for her participation in this case. Specifically, has Nava-Martinez’s legal resident status been revoked and have any criminal charges been filed against her?
8. The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, ratified by the United States on November 3, 2005, requires the United States to criminalize human smuggling, to strengthen border controls “to prevent and detect the smuggling of migrants”, “to provide for sanctions in cases of violation” of anti-smuggling laws, and consider measures to deny entry or revoke the visas of individuals involved in human smuggling. How does the Department of Homeland Security’s policy discussed in this letter remain in compliance with the aforementioned Protocol?
I look forward to receiving your responses as we both continue our service to protect the safety and security of this great nation and faithfully execute the laws that are in place.
United States Senate