Federal Taxpayers Fund Migrant Caravans

Migrant Caravans
Migrants from Central America cross the US-Mexico border to seek asylum in the United States. | Image by Mike Hardiman/Shutterstock

The Department of Homeland Security, the federal agency tasked with stemming the flow of unlawful migration into the United States, has multiple sub-agencies seemingly operating in conflict with the department’s mission.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), for instance, is disbursing large sums of taxpayer money to private organizations in Texas that help unlawful migrants settle in the U.S. and provide pro-bono legal counseling for people who have entered the country unlawfully. The money is disbursed through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

In Texas, the majority of the distributed taxpayer funds prop up the operations of various Catholic organizations in major urban centers and South Texas. FEMA has provided grants totaling more than $55 million in 2023 to five branches of Catholic Charities. Another $9.9 million has been granted to Catholic Social Services in Laredo.

More important than operations in Texas, however, may be the influence this money exerts south of the U.S. border.

Two policy analysts who specialize in border security and unlawful migration told The Dallas Express that the funds are being used to facilitate unlawful migration into the U.S. and undermine the mission of other sub-agencies operating within DHS, including Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“One of the primary jobs of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] has been to manage the inflows of people into and out of border patrol facilities with papers. For that, Catholic Charities will be paid to manage released immigrants to bus stations and airports to be transported and released in U.S. cities,” said Todd Bensman, a senior fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

“Once they’re in U.S cities, they take the role of caretaker. They make sure the immigrants are housed, fed, go to school, and receive dental care,” Bensman added.

The taxpayer funds also help offset costs aligned organizations incur providing legal services for unlawful migrants. Catholic Charities of San Antonio received the largest FEMA grant, which totaled more than $39.7 million.

Catholic Charities of San Antonio provides housing, transportation, and food to unlawful migrants living in San Antonio awaiting a trial in federal immigration court. In the same office building at 110 Bandera Rd. is Caritas Legal Services, which aims in part to legally shield unlawful migrants from deportation.

Texans for Strong Borders President Chris Russo told The Dallas Express such organizations’ use of federal taxpayer dollars amounts to government-backed facilitation of unlawful migration. He also decried the scheme as a sleight of hand that allows the federal government to deny involvement in promoting unlawful migration.

“We have known for years that [CBP] partners with open-border NGOs to facilitate the transportation of illegal aliens from the border to our nation’s interior, so it’s hardly a surprise that they are receiving taxpayer funds to this end,” Russo claimed.

“What is sinister about this scheme is not only that illegal aliens are being given taxpayer-funded travel to virtually anywhere in the United States, but that the Biden administration then denies all accountability for this by claiming that they are not funding relocation when it is clear to anyone close to the situation that they are, via contract,” he added.

Caritas Internationalis operates a global network of relief charities, including four facilities on the Mexican side of major ports of entry to the U.S. In total, the network operates in 79 Mexican cities.

Migrant caravans that move en masse to overwhelm U.S. border enforcement are often aided by such facilities. Russo told The Dallas Express that such efforts amount to subsidizing the cartel-dominated human smuggling economy.

“We also know that Caritas in particular, though they publicly state they wish to reduce migration flows, directly participates in moving would-be illegal border crossers north through Mexico to our border. This plays into the $20 billion economy of human smuggling and trafficking set up by the cartels,” Russo said. “By perpetuating the illegal immigration pipeline, they take in massive amounts of cash on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. And they are just one of the many NGOs funded by large corporations and even U.S. tax dollars through the State Department and UN relocation support efforts.”

Caritas affiliates throughout Mexico are not alone among federally funded nonprofits in facilitating unlawful migrant caravans. The American Red Cross, for example, received $350 million from FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program to address the humanitarian toll of human smuggling.

Reporting shows that the Red Cross utilized this funding to provide unlawful migrants with detailed maps that highlight routes to major U.S. ports of entry and cities in Texas like McAllen, El Paso, and San Antonio. Often, large caravans of unlawful migrants leave behind piles of trash and debris that contain these maps as they trek north to the U.S. border.

Sheena Rodriguez, founder and president of Alliance for a Safe Texas, told The Dallas Express in March that the Red Cross was also distributing birth control and condoms to unlawful migrants in full awareness of the number of migrant women — an estimated 60-80% — who are raped by smugglers and other criminal cartel members on their journey across Central America.

“I have seen it firsthand. New and used condoms are littering the Texas side of the border. Birth control is given knowing these assaults are happening,” Rodriguez told The Dallas Express. “It’s complete disregard for human tragedy happening on our side of the border. [The Red Cross] are absolutely complicit; they’re trying to mask it.”

Rather than mobilize federal resources to deter unlawful migration, federal efforts south of the border seemingly subsidize the costs of human and drug trafficking cartels who charge migrants thousands of dollars to take the dangerous trek north.

President Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris earlier in the year with building a coalition of private businesses to help address some of the social and economic root causes of unlawful migration from Latin America. The initiative amassed $4.2 billion in commitments from private companies that critics say are another component of facilitating unlawful migration.

“The vice president’s work and what we’re focused on this afternoon is thinking long term and getting at the root of the problem as the administration simultaneously addresses the immediate challenges at the border,” a federal official told CNN back in February.

However, some private companies had been donating money to Caritas affiliates prior to the White House’s more recent mobilization.

The Coca-Cola Foundation earmarked $250,000 to a Caritas affiliate in Mexico City, allegedly to assist with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, though the organization’s Facebook page shows that the group primarily works to assist unlawful migrants as they travel through Mexico.

These coordinated efforts are all the more noteworthy for the lobbying operation that boosts them to the U.S. Congress. Justice for Immigrants, a D.C.-based advocacy organization, works as a tent for 26 separate Catholic institutions that advocate for “dignified and fair reforms in immigration and refugee laws and policies.”

The CIS’s Bensman told The Dallas Express that the policies the organizations lobby for effectively amount to mass amnesty for unlawful migrants, sustaining the large contracts distributed to NGOs that facilitate unlawful migration en masse.

“The people who are behind the Biden administration’s immigration policies from 2021 forward are enriching themselves. It’s not just Catholic Charities, it’s hundreds of these organizations that are getting life-changing money,” Bensman said.

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