Even Alaskans Suffer From Dems' Failed Border Policies
With Juneau located some 2,000 miles from California’s San Ysidro border crossing, one would be mistaken for believing that Alaskans are immune to our nation’s illegal immigration crisis.
The Obama administration’s lax enforcement policies precipitated dramatic increases in heroin deaths as well as a weighty financial burden on Alaska’s taxpayers. Now, as the current administration and congressional Republicans work to undo these misguided decisions, a new crop of Democratic presidential candidates have irresponsibly promised to open our borders should they reclaim the White House.
I have long opposed these liberal efforts to flout the rule of law and endanger American lives. Earlier this year, President Trump accepted my offer to deploy some of our finest Alaska National Guard troops to the southern border to help stem the unprecedented flow of drugs and illegal crossings that have wreaked havoc on our country.
Many have sought to downplay the seriousness of the southern border crisis, but the facts do not bear out their partisan talking points. This past fiscal year brought nearly 1 million southwest border apprehensions and admission denials – a 100% increase over 2017. For perspective, this number equates to over 2,700 illegal immigrants attempting to gain access to the United States every single day.
With this tremendous influx in illegal crossings came a fresh wave of narcotics, poisoning our communities and driving up health care costs. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reported the seizure of 155,000 pounds of cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids last year – a 125% increase from 2015. In fact, it is estimated that 80% to 95% of street drugs in the United States travel through Mexico on their way to our streets.
The result of this jump in supply has been nothing short of tragic. When I took office last year, opioid deaths in Alaska had doubled since 2010; overdoses claimed the lives of 108 Alaskans just in 2017. Both crimes of violence and property crimes, frequently fueled by substance abuse, had spiked to crisis levels. Nationally, other states fared similarly, with 69,000 Americans succumbing to drug overdoses in 2018.
The good news is that Alaskans are doing their part to combat the drug epidemic. In July, I signed into law a criminal justice reform package that cracks down on drug dealers and doles out severe penalties to those who operate methamphetamine labs near children. The legislation would also elevate classification and penalties for individuals caught in possession of some of today’s deadliest drugs.
Unfortunately, the drug epidemic is not the only hardship that Alaskans face as a result of Congress’ failure to secure the southern border. The cost to provide education, emergency services, and public assistance to illegal immigrants and their families constitutes an estimated $97 million drain on Alaska’s economy. The average resident will shoulder $387 of this burden each year.
My administration is committed to fighting the ill effects of illegal immigration, and continuing to combat the scourge of illegal drug trafficking. But only Congress can truly cure our border crisis by partnering with President Trump to secure the southern border and reform our broken immigration system.
Lawmakers can start by looking to Alaska for an example of a healthy immigration system that benefits both immigrants and Americans. Having joined the United States a short 60 years ago, the Last Frontier remains a cultural melting pot ranging from Alaska Natives to Filipinos to Americans from all corners of the Lower 48. An incredible 17% of Alaskan residents are immigrants or the children of immigrants.
And each spring and summer, thousands of seasonal workers descend on the state to fill seasonal positions in the fishing and tourism industries. Many of these legal workers come from foreign countries and plug critical labor force gaps that would otherwise go unfilled. In return, they receive fair wages that are appropriately taxed – an economic win for taxpayers, businesses, and immigrants alike.
It is my hope that Congress will act quickly and craft an immigration plan that builds on these successes, while securing the southern border and closing this avenue of drugs and crime. Plainly, this will require courageous Democrats to stand up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her newfound opposition to a border wall. Tackling our immigration crisis isn’t about politics; it’s about willing to put their country first.
Until then, Americans -- including Alaskans -- will continue to pay the price.