HIDALGO—From the actual high ground — from the bluffs overlooking the Rio Grande River — it’s hard to see how any of this makes sense. President Joe Biden’s inaction and inept policies on the southern U.S. border only increase the human carnage and suffering wrought by the Mexican drug cartels. This isn’t compassion; it’s complicity.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation led members of our Border Security Coalition on a fact-finding trip to the border last week. We learned about the hardships, the abuse, even the deaths of those being smuggled into the U.S. by the cartels, and how Biden’s refusal to secure the border gives criminal organizations a free hand to expand their cruel operations.

Texas Department of Public Safety Col. Steve McCraw, who leads Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, calls this “false compassion.”

“The reality is it’s not compassionate at all,” he told us. “Just look at the rates of rape, of both women and children, and sex trafficking. [The administration] may think they’re being compassionate. I think they’re being naïve.”

He’s right. As the New York Times reports, “you have to pay with your body” to reach the border. An estimated 80% of women and girls are sexually assaulted and abused en route to the United States.

There are deaths; last December, 54 migrants were killed when the truck pulling the trailer they were crammed into rolled while taking a sharp turn in southern Mexico. Hundreds more die every year in the deserts and brushy vastness of south Texas.

Our group spoke with Don White, the search-and-recovery deputy with the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office. He responds to reports and phone calls about missing migrants, who are abandoned at the border by the human traffickers working for the cartels. He said migrants are often given a jug of water and told to just head north.

“There’s no above-ground water,” he said. “The brush is thick. The air is hot. You just can’t carry 30 pounds of water — but that’s what you’re going to need.”

Sometimes he finds migrants in time; with a few bags of IV fluids and close medical monitoring, some actually live. Mostly he finds the bodies. Every corpse was once someone’s child, someone’s mother or father, someone’s brother or sister.

“That’s why I’m out here,” he told us. “I’m here to return them to their families. If there’s no ID, it can take two years or so to do the DNA testing. But we’ll do it, we’ll find their families. They deserve to know.”

DPS Col. McCraw showed us videos of the high-speed pursuits that end in horrific wrecks that occur regularly in the counties along the border. The dead and the injured are scattered on the highway as DPS officers rush to respond. The drivers are often young U.S. citizens, recruited via social media and promised thousands of dollars to transport migrants from the border to bigger cities. They don’t know what they’re doing. They see flashing lights and they panic. They kill people.

The answer isn’t to simply open the border — a policy whose adherents like to pat themselves on the back for having the moral high ground. The fact is that if we open the southern U.S. border, the land just a few yards away, across the Rio Grande, is still 100% controlled by Mexican drug cartels. Our change in policy won’t suddenly cause them to change their ways and give up the money they’re making from human trafficking and the drug trade.

No. Every migrant that comes into the U.S. from Mexico does so at the hard-bought sufferance of the cartels. That’s true today, and that will be true whatever the Biden administration (and subsequent administrations) do, until Mexico addresses its own corruption and complicity and shuts them down.

When we talk about the border, we’re not talking about an abstraction. We’re talking about a real place, and it’s being besieged.

“You win or lose this war at the river,” Col. McCraw told us.

One image has stayed with me: an infant’s car seat, abandoned on the banks of the river. I don’t know what it means. What it shows, however, is that when migrants attempt the journey to the U.S., they indeed set safety aside — and not merely their own.

Until we decide to truly secure the border, migrants themselves will continue to be just a commodity to the cartels, and inevitably, the collateral damage. They deserve better. They deserve real compassion — and that’s not open borders.