Sara Carter: Lethal cartels control border – they make billions on drugs, trafficking while migrants suffer
Former CBP Commissioner Morgan: Biden’s immigration policy is ‘facilitating illegal immigration’
Former CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan reacts to the ‘remain in Mexico’ policy ending under the Biden administration.
On Jan. 22, 12 Mexican state police officers allegedly participated in the mass murder of 19 people, including migrants from Guatemala, who were only miles away from the Texas border.
The smugglers, along with the migrants, were shot and burned beyond recognition. They were discovered piled on top of one another in a charred pickup truck near Camargo, Mexico, near the Rio Grande River.
The investigation is ongoing but authorities in Mexico suspect that the smugglers didn’t pay the local cartel’s pisos, a sort of tax imposed for using their territory to move people across. In the end the migrants paid the ultimate price.
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These are the deaths that are often ignored in the tragedy of the illegal immigration debate, but they are frequent and horrific.
In the narco-world there are only two choices once you cross into their territory – plata o plomo – in English it’s “silver or lead.” Any group, any person, traversing the border illegally is at the mercy of the cartels: if the silver isn’t paid, a “lead” bullet is the retribution.
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The deadly narco-organizations have spies everywhere. It can be the person selling food in the placita, the local police officer seemingly patrolling the route along the border or a child riding his bike with a Nextel in his back pocket. The narco-payrolls go far beyond those just trafficking drugs and their foot soldiers can be anyone.
The State Department designates the major cartels as Transnational Criminal Organizations, and they collect so-called taxes from migrants being smuggled into the United States. Those taxes are wrapped into the cost of migration and from where and how far the migrants have had to travel.
It has been that way since the 1970s when the Mexican cartels rose to prominence – operating as a shadow government and taking control of the territory along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Art Del Cueto, president of the National Border Patrol Council’s Local 2544 in Tucson, has spent his life along the border. He said he’s seen over the years how the cartels continuously change their tactics to go unnoticed over Arizona’s rough 372-mile border terrain with Mexico.
Like Texas, the Arizona border is known for its harsh environment. The cartels care little about the migrants crossing, as they collect their cut of money from the smuggling organizations every month, Del Cueto said. The cost varies on multiple factors “but no one crosses illegally without paying the cartels,” he added.
The cartels’ tactics are always evolving, he added. He described a recent incident, in which he questioned two individuals from Ecuador and Honduras who had been apprehended by Border Patrol.
“They told me they came by themselves, which I knew was a lie,” said Del Cueto, recalling a conversation he had with the illegal migrants after they were apprehended.
It took some time but eventually the migrants revealed that the traffickers they paid took their original group of 300 and broke them into groups of two to mitigate the chances that they would be caught. They sent each group with a cheap cellphone, which contained maps with “way points” that told them where to move on a predesignated route into the U.S.
The cartels operate under their own rules and the migrants, along with the nation’s own national security, are at their mercy.
“At each point, they checked in with the guide and then kept moving,” said Del Cueto. “The guides keep track of the migrants, while the scouts for the smugglers are watching the (Border Patrol) agents along the route. The cartels want to make sure the people get through and they want to make sure the guides don’t get exposed.”
DEA agents often warn that the drug cartels are not inhibited by rules, regulations or changing policies. The cartels operate under their own rules and the migrants, along with the nation’s own national security, are at their mercy.
In a recent interview on “The Sara Carter Show,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who is the co-chair of the new House Border Security caucus, said the situation is getting worse.
“Human trafficking, and drug trafficking\, is increasing,” he said. “I just don’t understand this notion that an open the border is humane when quite frankly … to the cartels these people are merely product, that’s what they are and so they don’t care whether they live or die.”
And the cartels monitor both their human product and narcotics with some of the most advanced monitoring equipment, law enforcement officials tell me.
There’s been a significant escalation in violence, human trafficking and smuggling of contraband since the beginning of the year, according to federal law enforcement. The Biden administration’s reversal of Trump’s strict border policies is the reason why, say law enforcement officials. These policies are being used by the cartels to increase their profits and lure thousands of undocumented migrants to the U.S.
“The cartels are very wise and watching all the talking points the Biden administration is saying and everything they’re doing regarding immigration,” said Tom Homan, former acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Homan has been outspoken in recent weeks regarding Biden’s reversal of Trump policies and told me that these policies not only endanger the lives of migrants but Americans as well.
“This humanitarian crisis, however, quickly turns into a national security crisis,” Homan warned. “They keep the BP agents tied up with family units and then move the drugs and the bad guys through another location. They play this game and they smuggle the contraband across the border and we have no idea what it is.”
Homan pointed out how cartels work in sync with the human smugglers “and they tax those groups as well, sometimes up to $200 a person” for crossing in their territory.
The cartels combined have amassed billions of dollars and sometimes their resources far exceed U.S. law enforcement’s. They raise their money off the backs and lives of the poor and desperate. Failed U.S. policy perpetuates that behavior.
“It’s a simple as that,” said a coyote – a trafficker – I interviewed during one of many trips into Nuevo Laredo, “If you don’t pay up they kill you.”
“Plata o plomo,” he said. “Silver or lead.”
I heard this phrase for the first time during a trip I took to Laredo, Texas, in 2006. It was there that I met James Kuykendall Sr., a former special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. His DEA partner, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, was kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the drug cartels in 1985 while working undercover in Guadalajara. His death brought national attention to the Mexican drug war and the corruption that plagued the Mexican government.
Since Camarena’s death the wars along the border have continued, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
It is a seemingly never-ending battle. When I hear Afghanistan is America’s longest war, I always pause. I would argue America’s longest war is its undeclared war with the Mexican drug cartels.
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Make no mistake it is a war.
Sadly, those who pay the biggest price are the migrants attempting the dangerous crossing, the American people whose communities are flooded with drugs, and U.S. law enforcement officials who are trapped in a political web that has left everyone at the mercy of the cartels.
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