FBI Director Christopher Wray commented Thursday that there is “no question” that cartel activity from Mexico is “spilling over” into the U.S., as a massive influx of migrants continues to cross the southern border.
At a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Representative Tom McClintock asked Wray whether the FBI was aware of incidents in which border patrol officials encountered migrants who owed debts to cartels and smugglers.
“Certainly, we have seen quite a number of such instances, absolutely,” Wray said.
McClintock asked if the cartels collect those debts via indentured servitude, to which Wray responded, “In some cases, definitely.”
“We are pursuing a number of human trafficking task forces, as well as working on certain task-forces with DHS [Department of Homeland Security] to try to address that issue. But there’s no question that the cartel activity on the other side of the border is spilling over in all sorts of ways and you just put your finger on one that is extremely concerning,” he added.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May indicating that 180,000 migrants were apprehended during the month, representing a one percent increase over April and the third straight month to reach a new record for the past two decades.
Many immigrants who embark on the treacherous journey from Central America to the U.S. border pay hefty prices for cartels to smuggle themselves or their children across. Smugglers tend to have more intimate knowledge of the terrain, such as the weak spots with minimal surveillance or enforcement presence along the border, to covertly transport the migrants to the other side.
Some gang members, convicted sex offenders, and other criminals have tried to exploit the relaxation in U.S. border policies to gain entry. In early April, border patrol agents detained two suspects, both named on a federal terrorism watchlist and no-fly list, who attempted to cross the border illegally, the agency reported. Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently announced he plans to deploy 1,000 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard members to combat drug trafficking, specifically of the illegal narcotic fentanyl, pouring across the border and plaguing his state.