Chairman Green: “Every Dollar the Cartels Rake in Comes at the Cost of an American Life or Livelihood”
July 19, 2023
Delivers opening remarks in full committee hearing on Secretary Mayorkas’ loss of operational control to cartels
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) delivered the following opening remarks during a hearing to examine the reckless open-border policies put in place by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that have empowered the drug cartels in Mexico to seize operational control of the Southwest border and smuggle illegal aliens, criminals, suspected terrorists, and deadly fentanyl into the United States. This hearing is a part of the second phase of the oversight investigation into Secretary Mayorkas’ actions and policies, which have threatened our national security and the safety of every American.
Watch the full hearing here.
As prepared for delivery:
The Southwest border is wide open. The evidence is clear: more than 5.5 million encounters; more than 1.5 million known gotaways since FY21; nearly 380,000 encounters of unaccompanied minors; and a record number of fentanyl poisonings in the United States, largely driven by drugs flooding across the Southwest border.
This crisis is the direct result of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ dereliction of duty. This Committee’s interim Phase 1 report is being published later today, and makes all of this clear. Today’s hearing, and subsequent hearings, will examine the costs and consequences of this dereliction.
Now, before I get to the subject of today’s hearing, I want to briefly talk about some of those numbers, because I’m sure we’re in for a few days of unjustified celebration about what they mean. Keep a few things in mind.
Every number that you hear the other side of the aisle talking about is still a number far above crisis levels, even by the measure of President Obama’s former DHS secretary. We’re still averaging more than 3,000 Border Patrol apprehensions a day—Jeh Johnson once said 1,000 overwhelms the system.
We’re also seeing the number of inadmissible aliens arriving at the ports of entry continuing to skyrocket, jumping to more than 45,000 in June of 2023. Encounters at the ports this fiscal year already exceed last year’s by more than 100,000. Last June, they were around 15,000, and 10,000 the year before. Why the change?
Because tens of thousands of inadmissible aliens are taking advantage of Mayorkas’ new parole programs and his illegitimate CBP One policy, accepting his offer of no-questions-asked release into the United States. More than 170,000 people have used the CBP One app to schedule an appointment since January alone.
Everyone in this room knows these individuals have no lawful basis to enter the country. Everyone also knows Mayorkas is playing a massive shell game by shifting encounters from between the ports of entry TO the ports of entry. The outcome—tens of thousands of inadmissible aliens encountering CBP and being released into the country—is the same. Let’s just be honest about that fact. Further, Secretary Mayorkas’ insistence that this is legal is a lie. Mass parole is against the laws passed by previous Congresses.
And as we’re going to talk about today, the humanitarian costs of this secretary’s policies are still horrific. The people flooding to our border, whether between the ports or at them, are still having to put themselves in the hands of the cartels, paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to get to the border, no matter where they cross. The cartels are still raking in the profits, and migrants are still being smuggled, trafficked, and abused.
Our focus today is on those Mexican drug cartels, and how they are running wild under Secretary Mayorkas’ policies. One thing is clear, the cartels have seized control of our own border. These organizations are the most vicious, evil organizations in the Western Hemisphere. What you will hear today from our witnesses will lay that out in eye-opening detail.
As you listen, remember—these groups are whom Mayorkas has turned our border over to. What is unprecedented is the level of control these evil organizations now exert at both our Southwest border and the interior of our country, the boldness with which they operate in open defiance of law enforcement, and the profits they are raking in.
Both Americans as well as migrants are suffering from their rath. It is virtually impossible to cross the Southwest border without first paying the cartels. People are killed simply for trying to do so.
Meanwhile, Secretary Mayorkas’ policies have pulled thousands of Border Patrol agents off the line to process and release these aliens into the interior as quickly as possible. This is not the work they signed up to do, and as the former chief the Border Patrol recently told us, has made many agents feel like smugglers themselves. Cartels purposefully overwhelm Border Patrol agents with illegal crossers in one area as a distraction, so they can smuggle other aliens or drugs across in the areas just vacated by those agents.
Amazingly, Secretary Mayorkas admitted to the Senate under oath in March that he was not aware of this strategy. Meanwhile, his Attorney General did know the tactic used by the cartels. Unbelievable.
Business is so good that the cartels have devised a complex system for the massive number of people trying to illegally cross the Southwest border. For instance, cartels use colored wristbands to inventory those who are attempting to cross. Secretary Mayorkas told the Senate in that same hearing he wasn’t familiar with these wristbands, either.
The violence and atrocities are not just being felt along the border – our American communities throughout the country are suffering as well. A lot of the violence can often be traced back to the cartels, because they often subcontract their mayhem to gangs that effectively function as the cartels’ national distribution network.
Per a recent New York Post headline, “Honduran migrants working for Mexican cartels brazenly took over San Francisco’s drug market thanks to lax policies.” Another outlet reported in February that the cartels have started operating “on a very large scale” in Montana—hundreds of miles from the border. Drugs and the violence associated with them are engulfing communities across the country, and it can all be traced back to the cartels.
The tidal wave of human smuggling and trafficking has led to an increased number of car chases on our streets, putting law enforcement, innocent Americans, and the migrants themselves at risk. One sheriff told us his department arrested 169 human smugglers in 2021,and is on pace to arrest more than 900 this year. Another sheriff said his county deals with 3-4 chases per day, involving groups of 20 people or more. The cartels are recruiting American teenagers to drive for them, implicating our youth in horrendous crimes.
Meanwhile, innocent Americans like Maria and Emilia Tambunga have been killed in crashes by those smuggling illegal aliens on our streets and highways.
Transnational gangs like MS-13, whose motto is “kill, rape, control,” are also taking advantage. A senior Border Patrol agent has said that gang members “attempt to evade arrest by exploiting the influx of migrants attempting to enter our country.” These gangs work closely with the cartels to support operations on both sides of the border.
According to ICE, 40 percent of MS-13 members they arrest arrived in the United States as unaccompanied alien children. MS-13 also forces women and girls into sex trafficking to make money for the gang. Cartels have made a record amount of money over the last two years. In 2021 alone, the cartels made an estimated $13 billion just from human trafficking and smuggling.
Then there’s the fentanyl. It costs as little as 10 cents to produce a fake prescription pill laced with fentanyl, which can be sold for $10-$30. 10 kilos of fentanyl is worth about $20 million, but only costs about $50,000 to produce.
Every dollar the cartels rake in comes at the cost of an American life or livelihood. There were more than 109,000 drug deaths in 2022 alone, many from fentanyl. And the cartels are continuing to push fentanyl into our country in record amounts, destroying our communities, one family at a time.
I’m sure we’ll hear today the same tired talking point that “most fentanyl is seized at our ports of entry.” But a couple of things are worth noting: The majority of fentanyl that is seized has come through the ports of entry, but by definition, that’s what is apprehended. Cartels know there is a higher risk of getting caught at ports of entry. Because our border isn’t secure, we don’t know how much cartels are using unguarded entry points to smuggle drugs.
My friends on the other side of the aisle won’t tell you that while CBP reports the majority of drugs, like fentanyl, are seized at the ports, they have also said they believe they only catch 5-10 percent of what’s coming through, either at or between the ports. Puts that in perspective.
And finally, the amount of fentanyl being seized between the ports is increasing. In March, seizures were up over 100 percent from the previous year, according to former chief Raul Ortiz. And that’s just what’s being caught.
As I said earlier, migrants are also victims of cartel atrocities. Once individuals are smuggled into the United States, the cartels often continue to extort and use them. According to Mayorkas’ own department, there has been an increase in “alternative forms of payment in exchange for passage, including migrants being required to participate in smuggling controlled substances or other illicit items across the border or to work off debts through criminal activity upon arrival in the United States.”
As many as 60% of unaccompanied minors are kidnapped and exploited by the cartels. Other migrants are sexually abused and assaulted. One victim told the New York Times, “You have to pay with your body” and some are even forced to allow their children to be abused. I can’t imagine anything worse.
Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden’s policies have encouraged record numbers of people to make the journey to the Southwest border. This has represented a historic business opportunity for the cartels, who make thousands of dollars on every person they smuggle into our country.
Their business model continues to work because instead of enforcing the law and removing or detaining those with no valid claim to enter, Mayorkas’ DHS is flashing the neon “Open” sign by releasing millions of inadmissible aliens into the United States.
Millions of people are willing to bet they will win the lottery if they make it to the border. Under this administration’s policies, it’s a winning bet—and the cartels are more than happy to assist.
It’s no wonder that a majority of Americans think the cartels now have more control of our border than the Biden administration—61 percent, according to a poll last fall. With Border Patrol agents so overwhelmed by the historic flow of illegal immigration on Mayorkas’ watch, the cartels have filled the vacuum.
While Mayorkas has been implementing his open-borders agenda, his boss in the White House has utterly failed to put meaningful pressure on the Mexican government to fight back against the cartels and deal with the violence and corruption impacting not just Mexico, but our country, as well.
The United States is the most powerful nation in the world, and yet, we do not control our own sovereign Southwest border. If that’s not evidence of Mayorkas’ failures, I don’t know what is.