GOP senator claims Biden's COVID relief checks were used to 'lure' immigrants to US

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Tennessee Sen. Bill Hagerty said cartels were marketing Biden's relief efforts and push for a higher federal minimum wage to recruit immigrants to make the trek to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Republican Sen. Bill Hagerty (TN) claimed recently that President Joe Biden's efforts to help everyday Americans survive the pandemic and economic crisis are emboldening cartels and smugglers at the U.S.-Mexico border, even as his administration works to target their efforts.

Hagerty, who along with a congressional delegation took a trip to Mexico and Guatemala earlier in May, claimed in an interview with Fox News on May 13 that cartels were marketing the Biden administration's push for a higher federal minimum wage and COVID relief checks to "lure" immigrants to help them, in exchange for getting them into the country.

"They use that to lure people to risk their lives. More than half of the people are victims of crimes, [have been] robbed, or get into drug smuggling, sex trafficking," Hagerty claimed. "It's a dangerous, treacherous trip."

Hagerty, a Senate Appropriations Committee member, also said Biden's polices had created "open season" for cartels and smugglers to traffic immigrants by halting the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.

Aside from the fact that Hagerty's remarks aren't fully based in reality — experts say a wall doesn't do much in the way of stopping cartels, which have developed myriad ways of getting things across the border, including through elaborate tunnel systems and by smuggling them through legal ports of entry — they also ignore Biden's actual efforts to address cartel and organized criminal activity.

On April 27, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced "Operation Sentinel," a crackdown on international criminal organizations that smuggle immigrants into the United States.

"Transnational criminal organizations put profit over human life, with devastating consequences," Mayorkas said in a statement. "With the help of our federal and foreign partners, we aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminals the ability to engage in travel, trade, and finance in the United States. We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network that these organizations use to succeed."

As Border Report noted, cartels largely control the transportation methods at the border, so smuggling organizations often need to offer them compensation to traffic immigrants.

The multiagency anti-smuggling effort will involve collaboration between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, and the Justice Department.

Hagerty has made similar comments in the past.

In interviews with conservative-leaning media networks over the last several months, the senator railed against Biden's domestic policies and stimulus package for supposedly incentivizing undocumented immigration.

Hagerty told Newsmax on March 8, "These are creating all the wrong incentives in particularly as you say, when they sat there and blocked our attempt to block these stimulus checks from going to illegal immigrants, we’re saying that’s just an invitation to come right across the border."

And in separate comments to Fox News on May 8, he claimed, "When they hear news of perhaps a $15 minimum wage, $1,200 stimulus checks for illegal immigrants ... all these messages are being translated into marketing materials by these cartels, these coyotes to go prey on vulnerable people to create a sense of hope, a sense of urgency, a false sense of opportunity that they’re going to come here and make a minimum of $15 an hour, and they’re going to be treated a very special way here, better than they’re being treated at home."

As USA Today noted in March, due to the fact that most do not have social security numbers required to obtain relief checks, noncitizens were largely excluded from receiving COVID aid. The only noncitizens able to obtain checks were those with legal authorization to work in the United States, some of whom may have overstayed their visas.

Biden's efforts to aid struggling Americans have in reality helped to spur the U.S. economy, with the Peter Peterson Foundation, a non-partisan fiscal policy nonprofit, noting on May 14 that stimulus checks had provided significant boosts to personal income and consumer spending.

Further, Biden's plan to raise the minimum wage, which has not increased in years, could significantly lift people out of poverty, according to the Economic Policy Institute, which stated earlier this year that doing so would increase earnings for more than 20% of the U.S. workforce.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.