A Great Country Deserves a Great
�As Americans, we have
built a great country, but we have not built the immigration system
necessary to serve it.�
U.S. Senator John Cornyn released a
�Is This How We Define a Secure
Border?� and authored the following column on
U.S. Sen. John
Immigration reform is, at its
core, a human issue. Good policy is driven by good data, but we
must never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there is a
person � a son or a daughter, a mother or a father.
weekend, as I traveled through South Texas, I met some of these people.
The stories they shared with me illustrate the humanity of the
immigration debate that all sides must acknowledge.
Grande City, I met a young woman who came to Texas to escape
persecution in El Salvador several years ago. She did so illegally, paying
thousands of dollars to be smuggled across the
After arriving in Texas, she fell victim to the same man she
had entrusted to bring her into the country. He beat her, raped
her, and forced her into a life of prostitution. For years she
endured this terror and misery, until she summoned the courage to reach
out for help.
By the tragic standards of illegal
immigration, some would say she�s among the lucky ones. Unlike so many others,
she survived the grueling trek through South Texas that has needlessly
taken the lives of so many.
For ranchers in Brooks
County, some 70 miles north of the border, the sight of illegal
border-crossers traversing their land is routine.
short time there, I saw many. Even so, it is often the migrants you
don�t see trudging through the brush that offer the most heart
wrenching reminder of the dismal state of our immigration
These ranchers told me how terribly common it is to find human
remains around their homes. These are the ones who didn�t make it �
the ones who fell behind and were left to do die by a smuggler who
treated them like expendable chattel. In an effort to save lives,
many ranchers leave stashes of water throughout their property, but the
corpses continue to accumulate at an alarming rate.
It falls upon the Brooks County Sheriff�s Department to respectfully
retire the unidentified remains. I met with County Judge Raul
Ramirez in Falfurrias, where he led me through a section of the local
cemetery that has been set aside for this purpose. Row after row of burial
mounds cover three sections of the cemetery. At the head of
each mound is a simple aluminum marker bearing a serial number, a date,
and a brusque description of what lies beneath: �female skeleton,�
Unknown and unidentified, they lay far from
home and far from the American dream that lured them across the border.
Each grave tells a story that ends in tragedy, and collectively
they tell the story of a broken immigration system and a border that
is still porous. The notion that these people died for the
chance to live and work amongst us is at once humbling and horrifying.
As Americans, we have built a great country, but we have not built
the immigration system necessary to serve it.
country deserves a great immigration system. This means recognizing
the incentives that lead to the growing number of nameless burial
mounds. It means understanding the malevolent forces that transact in human
flesh. And it means giving federal, state, and local law
enforcement agencies the resources they need to save lives and uphold our
The basic challenge of immigration reform will be
to reconcile our compassion as Americans to the fundamental
importance of the rule of law, without yielding to either. As a
policymaker, I have a responsibility to find real solutions to these issues
that are all-too-familiar to Texans. Anything less only perpetuates
this grotesque human tragedy playing out every day on American