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“Now Nobody Crosses Without Paying:” Senior Border Patrol Agents Describe Unprecedented Cartel Control at Southwest Border

December 14, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) issued the following statement after the Committee released additional portions of transcribed interviews conducted with the U.S. Border Patrol chief patrol agents responsible for the sectors along the Southwest border. In the interviews, Border Patrol leadership confirmed the unprecedented influence the criminal cartels wield at the Southwest border, detailed the numerous ways these groups take advantage of the chaos and anti-enforcement policies under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and described the abuses and atrocities committed by these organizations against individuals seeking to get to the Southwest border:

“In these shocking transcripts, chief patrol agents not only shed a light on the unprecedented control exercised by the criminal cartels at our Southwest border, but they also confirmed that Americans are ‘living in the theater of engagement.’ This means that the policies of Secretary Mayorkas have ceded ground along our border to these heartless criminals and have allowed their malign activities to destabilize cities and towns across the country.

“From overwhelming Border Patrol agents with mass crossings to purposefully putting the lives of migrants—including children—in danger, these cartels will stop at nothing to smuggle criminals across the border and deadly drugs into our communities, all while abusing, trafficking, and profiting off of vulnerable individuals. Secretary Mayorkas’ refusal to enforce the law and remove incentives for illegal crossings is enabling the cartels’ booming business model. This is completely unacceptable. Homeland Republicans are committed to holding Secretary Mayorkas accountable for allowing criminal cartels with no respect for human life to control our border.”

The House Committee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability conducted interviews with eight chief patrol agents and one deputy chief patrol agent from April-September 2023 to acquire more information about operations in their sectors and how the crisis has impacted the safety and security of the United States. These interviews were part of the Committees’ ongoing investigation into the causes, costs, and consequences of the unprecedented crisis at America’s borders, and the role of Secretary Mayorkas in facilitating and maintaining this crisis.

In the second interim report as part of an ongoing investigation in Secretary Mayorkas’ handling of the crisis at the Southwest border, the Committee noted the testimony of other experienced law enforcement personnel and public officials who have described the historic levels of control now held by the criminal cartels. In February 2023, former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott told Congress the cartels “control the border today. And they control the border today under the Biden administration because of this mass migration to a level that they’ve never had.” Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema told one local radio station in May, “The cartels are incredibly well-resourced and they’re very strategic, so they’re pushing people through different parts of the border at different times with different prices for different purposes, and they’re controlling what’s happening on the southern border, not the United States government.”

The cartels are also raking in historic profits from both drug and human smuggling, as well as human trafficking. As noted in the Committee’s report, the cartels were estimated to have made $13 billion in 2021 just off of human smuggling—and the number of individuals traveling through Mexico to the Southwest border has only increased since.

Earlier this year, Secretary Mayorkas admitted before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he was unaware of the method used by the cartels to overwhelm border agents in order to sneak aliens and drugs across the border—a tactic described by the chief patrol agents in these interviews—and he even admitted that he was unaware of their use of wristbands to keep track of the illegal aliens being smuggled and trafficked.

Despite Secretary Mayorkas’ false claims to have operational control of the Southwest border, in March 2023, then-Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz contradicted those statements, testifying before the Committee that DHS does not have operational control of our border, and that five of our nine Southwest border sectors are not secure.

In previous selections of the transcripts released by the Committee, these senior agents also describe how the numbers of illegal aliens crossing the border is truly historic, how mass release of illegal aliens function as a pull factor, and the recent phenomenon of illegal aliens turning themselves in to Border Patrol agents rather than evading arrest because they expect to be released.

Read more in the Daily Caller via Jennie Taer here and here.

Read sections of the transcripts below.


Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, Tucson Sector 

Q: And turning briefly to human smugglings, you said earlier that cartels are responsible for the majority of human smuggling that you see in your sector. Is that correct? 

A: So—yeah. So if someone’s being smuggled, they’re using a criminal organization. So what’s interesting about the border certainly that has changed significantly, when I started—you know, when I started in ’95, people could just get to the border and cross on their own. 

You know, now nobody crosses without paying the cartels. So the cartels, you know, determine when people cross, you know, how many people cross at a time, all of that. It’s all—it’s all controlled by them. 

Chief Patrol Agent Joel Martinez, Laredo Sector 

Q: The Northeastern Cartel you earlier described as particularly violent—

A: Uh‑huh.

Q: —would you say that they’re also particularly cruel to the migrants?

A: I would.

Q: What kind of tactics do they use in their smuggling process?

A: For starters, if you go down the river without their permission—every section of river has a boss that owns that particular part of the river. If you go down there without their permission, they can either beat you or hit you with, like, a paddle, and they’ve been known to shoot people, you name it. That’s how they—they rule through intimidation, so that’s a very common practice. 

The other day, we had two people wash up to our shores, and they had no identification on them, but we’re thinking they were migrants that went down there without permission.  One of them had his head halfway blown off, and the other one was shot between the eyes.

Q: Do you often come across migrants that have experienced assaults, essentially, by the cartel?

A: Yes.

Q: And you learn that through interviewing the migrants?

A: Yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Gregory Bovino, El Centro Sector 

Q: Do you ever get individuals who cross on their own without the assistance of a transnational criminal organization, or is that uncommon?

A: It’s uncommon. 

Q: And would there be consequences by the transnational criminal organization for someone that tried to cross on their own without paying the money? 

A: In my experience, there would be consequences.

Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, Tucson Sector 

Q: So we might have hit on this already, but is it fair to say that all individuals who illegally cross the southwest border must go through the cartels?

A: At least in the Tucson Sector, absolutely everyone does. No one does without. We have experienced when people try to, and we’ve seen them beaten for trying to cross without paying the fees.

Chief Patrol Agent Anthony “Scott” Good, El Paso Sector

Q: Do they charge a premium for individuals seeking to evade apprehension versus those who intend to turn themselves in to Border Patrol? 

A: Typically, yes.

Q: Do transnational criminal organizations in Mexico control the smuggling routes into the El Paso Sector? 

A: South of the border? 

Q: Yes, sir. 

A: Yes.

Q: And if an individual who intends to cross illegally in between ports of entry in the El Paso Sector wanted to do that without contracting the smugglers, would there be consequences for doing that? 

A: Yeah, the transnational criminal organizations would apply a consequence to an individual that tried to cross without going through them.

Chief Patrol Agent Joel Martinez, Laredo Sector

Q: Does the cartel in Mexico control the smuggling business in Laredo Sector?

A: Yes. 

Q: And which cartel was that, the—

A: Noreste.

Q: —Noreste Cartel? 

A: The Northeast. 

Q: Do you ever get individuals who cross on their own without the assistance of the human smugglers that are controlled by the cartels, or is that uncommon?

A: It’s uncommon.

Q: Would there be consequences for someone who failed to contract the services of a human smuggler?

A: Yes. 

Q: So the cartels would not like it if they did that on their own?

A: Correct.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector 

Q: What are the TCOs in Mexico that are operating in the south Yuma Sector?

A: So it’s all Sinaloa Cartel. There’s different factions. Some of the smaller local gangs, there one in particular that we’ve been dealing with for many years called the Wonder Boys, the Chapitos, the Mayos, the Rusos. You know, there’s the new generation.  They’re all subsets of the Sinaloa Cartel, but nothing happens without the approval of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Q: So in your experience, an individual who wanted to cross illegally would not do so without first contracting with someone affiliated with the TCOs?

A: That’s correct.

Q: If they tried to cross on their own, would there be consequences for that?

A: It’s certainly possible, yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector 

Q: Would it be difficult if an individual in Mexico wanted to cross illegally in the San Diego Sector for them to do that without the assistance of a human smuggling organization or transnational criminal organization?

A: Yes. It would be difficult and dangerous.

Q: And why is that?

A: The organizations that own those lanes get paid for every thing and person that crosses in that area. So they are afforded a payment for everything that goes through, and they don’t want to lose that payment. And so we have run into individuals who have been robbed or beaten when they’ve tried to make it through without contacting one of the people in charge of that area.

Q: Do you know how much an individual would pay a transnational criminal organization to be smuggled into the United States in the San Diego Sector?

A: Yes. We have ballpark numbers.

Q: What are those numbers?

A: It varies. And I think the easiest—it’s a business model that they use. 

So on land, right now, to cross on our 60 miles of land border, on average it costs about $8,000 per person. It’s between 8,000 and 12,000 depending on. 

On the water, it’s generally between $12,000 and $20,000 per person. 

They also use different ways to manage. So if they have a large group of 200 or 300 people, sometimes they will only have to pay $400 or $500 per person because it’s quicker and it’s easier for them to move those folks in places. 

And we have individuals as well that they don’t necessarily have direct contact to the smuggling organizations. So they may show up from wherever country they came to Tijuana and talk to
people to get a cab ride up to the border and be told, you’re going to cross here. For that cab ride, maybe it will cost $500 or $600. But it’s all part of the organizations that are moving people.

Q: So the organizations, the smuggling organizations, control those cab rides as well?

A: Yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector 

Q: I just wanted to return to human smuggling, which we talked a little bit about last hour. I just wanted to know or clarify, are all of the human smugglers who are moving migrants into your sector, are they all affiliated with or working with cartels?

A: Yes. 

Q: Do you know which cartels?

A: It—it changes. We—the two main ones in our area have historically been the Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG. Those are the two main ones. 

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector 

Q: What you’ve observed in the San Diego Sector I believe you explained as the cartels control the area in Mexico south of the border, and they control who comes into the United States. Is that right?

A: Yes.

Q: Through smuggling?

A: Yes. 

Q: So, earlier, when you were talking about—and I heard you talking about, you know, people giving themselves up in the desert, about rent‑a‑family schemes, things along those nature, is it fair to assume that the cartels are involved in kind of planning and orchestrating those?

A: Yes, yes.

Q: And so I assume that—you know, you talked about the challenges of your job in the San Diego Sector, and I understand that a lot of the challenges come from addressing these cartel
strategies and responding to the cartel. Is that right?

A: Yes. 

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector 

Q: Okay. Are you familiar, Chief, with the term “theater of engagement” as it evolved after Vietnam? 

A: I’m familiar with the term, yes.

Q: So, just to share, theater of engagement is a term that evolved since Vietnam wherein the sovereign border between nations would no longer define our engagement. If we had conflict as a Nation, we would secure the theater of engagement. 

And, in that definition, our border territories on both sides of the border—which, again, you could put one foot in Mexico and the other foot in the United States. But the theater of engagement is larger than the border, is it not? 

A: Yes.

Q: So the Americans that live on the sovereign territory of the United States that live within that theater of engagement where the cartels control the Mexican side of the border and they’re in the midst of that theater of engagement, and they do not respect our laws on our territory—in fact, their design is to defeat our laws on our territory—the Americans living on American soil, are they not living in the theater of engagement there? 

A: Yes, they are. 

Q: So are American lives and families impacted by the cartels’ control of the Mexican territory on our southern border? 

A: Yes. 


Q: How do you explain 5 million crossings and a million gotaways in 2 years, then? How do you explain the fentanyl crossings and 107,000 Americans dead in 2021 and 108,000 in 2022? If we’re controlling the theater of engagement, how are we losing like that? 

A: There are parts that we don’t control.

Chief Patrol Agent Sean McGoffin, Big Bend Sector

Q: So the individual people who are arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs, are they working for the cartels? 

A: Everything that I—that I’m aware of, yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens, Del Rio Sector 

Q: Okay. And then the majority of illicit drug smugglers operating in your sector, are they working for the cartels?

A: Everybody that is bringing illicit traffic across the border in some form or fashion is connected to or working for the larger cartels.

Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, Tucson Sector 

Q: Do you know which transnational criminal organizations operate the smuggling routes in the Tucson Sector?

A: Yeah. So all of them are controlled by the Sinaloa cartel.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector 

Q: And are all of the illicit smugglers that you interdict, are they all working for cartels?

A: To the best of my knowledge, yes.

Q: And that’s the same for human smugglers?

A: Yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, Rio Grande Valley Sector

Q: Okay. So my question is—I’ll preface the question with the CHNV parole program started in 2023. The CBP One app has been utilized in 2023. 

My question to you is, in 2023, in your experience, are cartels still part of the illegal immigration process? 

A: So the cartels have not stopped being in the illegal immigration process, period. 

Q: Are the cartels currently profiting from the illegal immigration process?

A: They are.

Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, Tucson Sector

Q: I have a couple follow‑ups, if you don’t mind. 

I think you mentioned very early on that those who used to cross in other sectors are now crossing in Tucson. Did I get that correct?


A: My feeling about—which I think is maybe the larger part of the question—about why it’s happening, not so much in Tucson, but for me I think the more important question is, why is it happening in our west desert and not, say, through Nogales, which would be a very—a more—a safer place to push people through, would be an area where there is structure on the other side, where it would be easier for smugglers to pick them up from there because there’s paved roads, it’s not hours from the closest road, is because the recognition that when these groups are out there, especially in our farthest west desert, the vast majority of our resources then have to go out and deal with that situation, which leaves the border more vulnerable in other places. That, obviously, is more advantageous to the smuggling organizations.

Chief Patrol Agent Joel Martinez, Laredo Sector 

Q: And they use the photos, the Gulf Cartel?

A: Well, they all use photos. They all use photos to keep track of the people they’re smuggling.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector

Q: Do the cartels use drones in the area?

A: Yes. 

Q: And what do their drones do? Is it to drop off drugs or guns? Is it to spy on your operations?

A: So I have seen multiple, you know, utilizations of them. Primarily, it is a surveillance tool so that they can determine where agents are, what they’re doing, but I’ve also seen drones used to smuggle and drop off narcotics as well. 

Q: And what other strategies do the cartels use?

A: I don’t think there’s any limit and so we could talk all day about smuggling strategies, but any and all means are possible. I have seen people with scuba gear, you know, trying to come up with river. We’ve seen, of course, vehicles utilized with predesignated pickup spots, remote foot traffic, you know, like I said, the open bombing ranges. So they will walk through live fire ranges because they know we can’t patrol in those areas. 

Again, the utilization of the stash house, you know, is very common. Again, they’re looking for that opportunity to move out of the area, trying to hope a checkpoint goes down or that there’s not as many DPS patrolling the highway during that time. So there’s really no limit to the techniques and tactics that smugglers will do, and they absolutely have no regard for human life while they’re doing it.


Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector

Q: You also mentioned that you had seen—I believe you said you saw an increase in large groups crossing and turning themselves in to Border Patrol over the last few years. 

A: Yes.

Q: Is that correct?

A: Yes. 

Q: Why would smuggling organizations cross such large groups of individuals? Is that a tactic that they’re using, or is there some other explanation?

A: Both. It is a tactic. So they will send in large groups, 200 or 300 people, to an area, knowing that it’s going to take us an enormous amount of resources to bring those folks all out of the border area. And so they’ll use that to drain our resources in areas so that they can get other things through in other places. 

Q: And when you say “resources,” are you referring to agents and transportation? And what resources are consumed in responding to these large groups?

A: Yes. Agents, transportation, and—it’s the number of agents that are actually available to be on patrol on the line itself. 

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector

Q: Do you know where the majority of the got‑aways are coming in to the Yuma Sector? Are there particular vulnerable areas?

A: So, again, we see them—there’s potential everywhere. We’ve seen got‑away groups, again, when you look out the Imperial Sand Dunes. It’s in very close proximity to Interstate 8. So it’s very common.


A: So it’s very difficult to round up anyone who get through, but some of those mass coordinated events can be as many as two or three hundred people at one time coming over the border walls, overwhelming agents.

Q: These mass coordinated events and the coordination of load vehicles and other smuggling activity in the sector, is that being coordinated by transnational criminal organizations in Mexico?

A: Yes.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector 

Q: Do you know where the majority of the got‑aways are coming in to the Yuma Sector? Are there particular vulnerable areas?


A: So that area is exploited a lot. The river corridor where, again, a vast majority of them are give‑up groups in that area, we do still have load vehicles that come in. It’s all about a timing issue to where we’re heavily scouted every day. They know how many patrolmen we have out in the certain areas. Once a patrolman passes through a certain spot, especially during shift change, it is very common they will bring a vehicle in. Most of the time, it’s a pickup truck or a van or high‑capacity transport vehicle. The group will exploit one of the gaps. They’ll run and load into the vehicle as quick as possible and the vehicle just tries to beat us out of the area before we can get behind them and attempt a vehicle stop or even a vehicle immobilization technique.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, Rio Grande Valley Sector

Q: And so that’s perfect and leads into my next question. So you see the cartel kind of understanding and watching the Border Patrol, and if they are taking off or there’s a surge in other areas, that’s when they kind of come in through that area and start moving people or drugs? 

A: That is correct. We’ve seen that traditionally as well as in RGC and in McAllen and Weslaco. So we know those tactics that they utilize when we have high activity of migrants coming across.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, Rio Grande Valley Sector

Q: And I think you mentioned this with the drugs, but cartels do intentionally put aliens in peril to either save the drugs, save other smuggling operations of humans, you know, to make sure that they get—is that correct?

A: That’s correct. They use different tactics with using migrants, whether it’s a human smuggling load at a checkpoint and then agents being tied up with a human smuggling load. Then the next types of loads coming through could be narcotics. So we know those tactics so we try to prepare as we can to be able to interdict those. The same situation at the border, obviously when you have a surge, all attention goes to the surge to be able to place people in processing. So then other areas become vulnerable as such.


Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens, Del Rio Sector

Q: You mentioned they use trains. I saw a report that there was a recent—I don’t know if “disaster” is the right word—but tragedy on a train. Could you speak to that?

A: So unfortunately—and that happened in the Del Rio Sector, too, if it’s the same one you’re talking about.

The smugglers will lock the migrants inside these transport cars, and so they can’t get out. And there’s no air‑conditioning. Very little—only food and water that they take with them. And these rail systems run through, again, very remote areas, and they may be locked in there for days in very extreme temperatures and bad conditions. 


It’s a monument to the callousness of these smugglers. They would not put themselves or their family in that situation, yet, without hesitation, they put the migrants there.

Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens, Del Rio Sector 

Q: Is it an active tactic also to put migrants in peril, put them in situations where Border Patrol has to come rescue them?

A: 100 percent. We have seen that time and time again. We have seen where they will abandon the migrants. And the migrants call 911 when they have a phone, and they’re calling us. And they know that we’re going to be the ones—we’re the only ones out there. 

They do that for a reason. They don’t care about the lives of the migrants, they don’t care if they live or die, only the impact that that call has so that they can do who knows what.

Q: Do you think that that’s a tactic across the southwest border, or do you think it’s very specific to Del Rio?

A: No, I believe it’s used anywhere and everywhere they can get away with it.


And the migrants are treated like cattle and sold from one group to the other. And where you used to see the groups, the smuggling organizations concentrate on either human smuggling or narcotics, now they cross the lines. 

Chief Patrol Agent Jason Owens, Del Rio Sector

Q: What about any misinterpretation of U.S. laws? Have you ever gotten a sense that, while cartels may lie to potential customers, do you believe that migrants who are making this cross or ones who communicate with each other to encourage others to do some more crossings might have a misunderstanding of our U.S. laws?

A: I think the smugglers and the transnational criminal organizations, they—make no mistake about it, that is our adversary. That is the ones that we are faced against every single day. And the migrants themselves are looked upon as simply a product to make money off of in terms of how the smugglers see it. 

Chief Patrol Agent Aaron Heitke, San Diego Sector 

Q: Have you noticed any other abuses by smugglers or cartel members on migrants beyond the bandits?

A: We see trafficking. We see, unfortunately, a large amount of assaults. And this is—it’s not just within Mexico, but it’s on the entire journey. 

It’s very common that female migrants are raped during the process. It’s also very difficult to be able to get them to talk. Most of them believe it’s just part of the payment as they go up. It’s unfortunately very regular within the population. 

Chief Patrol Agent Gregory Bovino, El Centro Sector 

Q: Right. They’re trafficked across the board but into servitude bondage debt. What does that look like within the United States? Are they being trafficked into any forms of modern day slavery?

A: It could be. I think there’s a lot of different areas that they could be trafficked into, whether it’s sex workers, slavery. You know, I think there’s a lot of different things that it’s possible they could be trafficked into.

Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin, Tucson Sector 

Q: And because of that, they often—they cross, and then as you’ve said, the journey is not easy and they are in peril. But would you agree that the cartels have a financial incentive to get them across no matter what?

A: Yeah, so—yeah, so the cartels are agnostic as far as, you know, what it is they’re crossing, whether it’s people or narcotics or, you know, weapons or money. It’s just—to them, it’s just a commodity. They have no concern for the safety. 

Chief Patrol Agent Anthony “Scott” Good, El Paso Sector 

Q: In your experience in El Paso, do the smuggling organizations ever put migrants in peril intentionally as a diversion tactic?

A: Yes.

Q: And then Border Patrol agents are then responsible for rescuing those migrants, correct?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you know whether the number of rescues performed by Border Patrol agents in El Paso, do you know what those trends are? Have they been increasing or decreasing over the years?

A: They’ve been increasing over the years for rescues. 

Q: What types of rescues do Border Patrol agents perform in El Paso?

A: There’s not a lot of water in El Paso; however, there are seasons when we have large currents in waterways. And so smugglers will tell them to swim across, the migrant to swim across, but the actual design of the canal is to suck debris through, and so there’s this large current that kind of sucks people in. And so there’s water rescues there where people are drowning from that. 

Smugglers will have people climb up a ladder on the south side, and then they’ll pull the ladder away, and sometimes you’re talking about 30‑foot fence, sometimes 18‑foot fence, and then they’ll make them scale down on their own because they’re stuck up on top of the fence. 

And then they’ll—smugglers will take groups of migrants through the desert, and temperatures are extremely hot in the area, in the desert. And if the migrant can’t keep up with the smuggler, then the smuggler just leaves them behind. And so there’s rescues there. There’s also deaths there if we can’t get there soon enough to make a rescue. 

There is also—we talked about load vehicles. Some of those are people that are put into trunks of vehicles, that are put into the back of box trucks, hidden compartments, those kinds of things. And when you compile that with the extreme heat or vehicle accidents, many times we’ve rescued people from those situations.

Q: And you mentioned that deaths have also resulted as a result of these smuggling tactics. 

A: Yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Joel Martinez, Laredo Sector

Q: What about the river rescues, have those increased?

A: They do, especially after a good hard rain where the river rises a little bit. And—

Q: Are those rescues a result of circumstances or do the transnational criminal organizations ever put migrants in peril intentionally as a tactic to divert resources?

A: Both. 

Q: You’ve seen both—

A: I’ve seen both.

Q: —in the Laredo Sector?

A: Yeah.

Q: Do those rescues put agents at risk of harm?

A: Yes.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, Rio Grande Valley Sector

Q: What about rescues, what are the trends that you’re seeing currently in—with regard to Border Patrol agents having to rescue individuals who are in peril?

A: So agents are every day out there on patrol and, for the most part, are, you know, encountering a lot of these migrants that are, especially with the weather, dehydrated. They are found in remote areas, different ranches out there. And they’re rescuing people every day. 

When it comes to either families or single adults, just this morning I was informed of a 2‑month‑old infant that was abandoned at the border and rescued by agents this morning in the Rio Grande City Station. So rescues are happening every day by our agents.

Q: Do those rescues ever put agents in harm’s way?

A: It does. Our agents constantly are risking their own lives to save other human lives.  And I’m very, very proud of the actions that they do every day, but it is a concern and a risk because they’re in areas that are very remote, and many times their own life is at peril.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, Rio Grande Valley Sector 

Q: Do you know of aliens that ever go into debt to pay for the cartel to come into the United States?

A: I have heard from different debriefs from our intelligence agents that many of the migrants that do hire human smugglers at times haven’t even paid their debt yet until they get find a job in the United States to pay that debt. I have heard that from different briefs.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle, Yuma Sector 

Q: And how do the cartels treat aliens when they smuggle them?

A: As a commodity, a number.

Chief Patrol Agent Sean McGoffin, Big Bend Sector

Q: Can you expand on what this anti‑smuggling campaign is doing?

A: Well, simply, we’re trying to identify more people that are being smuggled and engage in greater populations of prosecutions. You know, as I’ve said many times and in here as well—you know what I mean?—these people are treated poorly by those who choose to exploit them, take their money, their life savings oftentimes, and, you know, try to bring them into the country.