National Security & Defense

Mexican Drug Cartels Caused the Border Crisis

Illegal immigrants near Mission, Texas, July 2014. (John Moore/Getty)
And the Obama administration falsely took credit for stopping it.

Mexico’s warring drug cartels helped orchestrate the massive influx of unaccompanied alien children that streamed through the Rio Grande Valley last summer, according to a leaked report from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Contrary to the narrative articulated by the Obama administration and promoted by major news organizations, the children did not enter the country entirely “unaccompanied.” How, when, and where the alien children crossed into the United States appears to have been determined by transnational criminal organizations who exercise control over much of the southern border, according to the leaked report first obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Intelligence gathered by the Texas Department of Public Safety shows the cartels were making strategic decisions at the border in response to the actions of former Governor Rick Perry. When Perry deployed the National Guard to the border in the middle of the crisis in late-July of 2014, the cartels immediately responded. “As of August 2014, the cartels had told the “river bosses” to stop sending unaccompanied alien children across from Mexico to the U.S. due to the deployment of the military to the U.S. border,” the report says. “Illegal alien family units were still being sent.”

The Obama administration immediately began taking credit for this development the very next month. U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner Gil Kerlikowske celebrated the news of fewer unaccompanied alien children crossing the southern border as directly attributable to President Obama.

“The President and his Administration responded with an aggressive, coordinated Federal response focused on stepped up deterrence, enhanced enforcement, stronger foreign cooperation, and greater capacity for affected Federal agencies to ensure that our border remained secure,” Kerlikowske wrote. “As a result, and as Secretary Jeh Johnson reported last week, the number of Central American migrants trying to illegally cross the Southwest border continues to decline including unaccompanied children and families.”

But the leaked report demonstrates that it was Perry who played the biggest role in stemming the tide of illegal immigrant children flowing into the U.S., not the Obama administration.

In response to Perry’s efforts to secure the border, the cartels stepped up their surveillance and scouting activities to uncover vulnerabilities in the system. The report says the cartels began conducting “reverse interviews of law enforcement” to learn the officers’ working schedules and the scope of their operations. Further inland, a “network of spies for the cartels” observed the officers and conducted photographic and video surveillance at hotels where some illegal immigrants were being stashed. The report finds that the cartels used houses, ranches, hotels, apartments, and businesses located inside the U.S. to move illegal immigrants into the country without gaining attention. While the stash houses for humans, drugs, and other contraband were most prevalent near the border, one Houston-area stash house held 115 illegal aliens who were held captive by gang members wielding guns, Tasers, paddles, and other weapons.

Despite the elaborate gang activities detailed in the report, the Obama administration continues to describe the southern border as becoming more secure each and every day. Soon after the massive influx tapered off last year, Kerlikowske said, “Our border has been and remains more secure than it has been in decades.” But the leaked report shows the spurious nature of the Obama administration’s claim.

The increasing number of “special interest aliens,” those from countries that are known terrorist hotbeds, poses a “significant threat to homeland security,” according to the report.

“The number of CBP encounters with SIAs in Texas sectors increased 15 percent during the first nine months of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013,” the report finds. “Over the past few years, these have included SIAs from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey.”

Between November 2013 and July 2014, approximately 143 individuals on terrorist watch-lists successfully crossed the southern border into the U.S. before encountering law enforcement or immigration-enforcement officers.

One of these special interest aliens was a member of al-Shabaab, the Islamic terrorist group. The Somali man was encountered at the southern border in Hidalgo, Texas in June 2014. While the report questioned the man’s credibility, he claimed that he and 13 other Somalians were trained to carry out a suicide attack in Mogadishu, but that he confessed the plan to African Union troops who then thwarted the attack. He came to America “seeking immigration benefits,” according to the report.

The full extent to which the drug cartels and special interest aliens have overrun Texas’ border remains unclear. The Texas Department of Public Safety did not respond to NR’s requests for comment, but has stated that it did not want the report it deemed “law enforcement sensitive” released for public consumption. Benny Martinez, of the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department, located approximately 70 miles north of Texas’ border with Mexico, says the federal government and local law enforcement have regained control of the border — for now.

“Two months from now, if [another surge of immigrants] occurs, well then we’ve lost that edge, but right now I think we have it,” Martinez says. “We need to learn their pattern so you can get the right staff in there to intercept that. … Either we’re looking at theirs or they’re looking at ours.”

The edge the U.S. maintains comes at a steep cost. The report says the state of Texas spent more than $100 million to regain control of the border, but that “ample and compelling evidence” suggests the Texas-Mexico border is still not secure. It is unclear if Texas has the wherewithal to keep the border in check this summer, when more illegal immigrants are expected to arrive.

Ryan Lovelace is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow at National Review.

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