EXCLUSIVE: The House Homeland Security Committee accused DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of having ceded control of the southern border to Mexican cartels in the GOP-led committee’s latest report into the administration’s handling of the migrant crisis.
Chairman Mark Green launched an investigation into Mayorkas’ conduct and handling of the southern border crisis earlier this year as the DHS chief faced a barrage of criticism from Republicans over the border crisis that has seen record encounters at the border, where encounters currently remain high.
The report on phase two of its investigation is called “DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has emboldened cartels, criminals and America’s enemies.” In the report, the majority concluded that “Mayorkas and [President] Biden’s policies have emboldened and enriched the cartels, ceded control of America’s sovereign Southwest border to these organizations, and jeopardized the safety and security of individuals and communities across this country in the process.”
The report outlined how the cartels, “the most vicious evil organizations in the Western Hemisphere,” maintain substantial control in Mexico and are the leading source of drugs such as fentanyl coming into the U.S. That drug, which is tied to tens of thousands of deaths each year, is primarily made in Mexico using Chinese precursors and shipped across the U.S. land border.
The cartels have also become the key players in transporting migrants across the border, with smuggling and trafficking now becoming a key pillar of their business model. The report argued that the administration has reversed Trump-era policies and implemented new ones that have “encouraged millions of individuals to make the journey to the Southwest border in hopes of being released into the United States.”
“The massive increase in the number of people now traveling up through Mexico on their way to the Southwest border represents a historic business opportunity for the cartels, as each person is someone off whom they can profit,” the report said, also finding that the surge of individuals has taken Border Patrol agents off the beat to process migrants instead, leaving broad stretches of the border open to cartel exploitation.
“Americans must understand the sheer control these organizations exert over the flow of illegal aliens and illicit drugs across the Southwest border, and how they profit from it all. The cartels control smuggling routes throughout Mexico and exert near-complete control on the movement of individuals through that country, particularly at and near the Southwest border,” the report continued.
The report also outlined how cartels have an increasing presence in the U.S., and highlighted media reporting detailing how unaccompanied children are often smuggled in and put into the labor force in order to pay back money. It also detailed how stash houses where migrants are forced to stay are a “public health nightmare” along with statistics showing the use of stash houses has increased in recent years.
The report warned how the cartels are associated with gang crime within the U.S. as well, particularly groups like MS-13 — the violent street gang that has many illegal immigrants among its members. They also noted the increase in apprehensions of those whose names appear on the terror watch list.
“It is unknown how many additional national security threats have been among the approximately 1.5 million known gotaways that have evaded Border Patrol altogether,” the report said.
In a statement accompanying the report, Green said that the report “documents in clear and unflinching detail how the cartels are taking advantage of our open Southwest border to rake in billions of dollars through increased human smuggling and drug trafficking, while spreading death and destruction throughout our communities.”
“And the reason they’re able to do so is because Secretary Mayorkas has implemented a host of policies that have incentivized illegal immigration at a scale we’ve never before seen, and the cartels have jumped to take advantage. The more the American people learn about this crisis, the more they understand that Secretary Mayorkas has been derelict in his duty, and that he has failed to uphold his oath to defend the homeland,” he said. “This Committee will continue to conduct oversight of this secretary’s actions and policies, and provide the answers and accountability the American people deserve—and demand.”
The administration has touted its own efforts to crack down on smugglers and cartels, including joint anti-smuggling operations with Mexico – where officials have said the cartels have control — and investments in detection technology at ports of entry and additional agents and other law enforcement to combat smuggling. It said those investments in staff, including 1,000 Border Patrol Processing Coordinators, are designed to help agents return to their patrol duties. The administration has pushed for more funding, including $4 billion in the recent supplemental request and a budget requesting more funding to combat smuggling and trafficking.
Mayorkas has himself rejected the claim his department has ceded control of the border to the cartels. In July, he told lawmakers his agency is “taking it to the transnational criminal organizations, the cartels that peddle in death and destruction, to an unprecedented degree.” He also highlighted stats from operations targeting fentanyl smuggling.
“We seized nearly 2 million pounds of narcotics last fiscal year. Operations Blue, Lotus and Four Horsemen alone stopped nearly 10,000 pounds of fentanyl from the U.S., led to 284 arrests, and yielded invaluable insights into the transnational criminal organizations wreaking this death and destruction on our communities.”
He also said that U.S. arrested “more criminals involved in cartel activity than in the prior several years.”
DHS has also pushed back against broader criticism from Republicans, accusing them of failing to work with the administration on legislation to fix a “broken” system and calling for more funding for its border operations. It has also repeatedly said that its efforts to expand migrant pathways, work with international partners and reinitiate Title 8 penalties for illegal entry are working, and that FY 2022 saw a record number of removals under both Title 42 and Title 8 authorities.
However, Republican criticism is showing no signs of letting up. Some Republicans have proposed a potential impeachment of the DHS chief, while this week there was an effort in the House to reduce his salary to just $1.