Rep. James Comer, the House Republicans’ lead investigator, says it’s time to send active-duty military troops to the U.S. border with Mexico to shut down drug routes and curtail the reach of smuggling cartels, which control the boundary with startling effectiveness.
The lawmaker from Kentucky led a delegation from the House Oversight and Reform Committee to the border in California and Arizona last week. He said the level of chaos was noticeably higher than a similar trip to the border in Texas and New Mexico last year.
He said cartels dictate border operations, sending groups of migrants to tie up Border Patrol agents and then sneaking drugs into the U.S. The cartels have eyes on everything, and the brazenness of their defiance is stunning, he said.
“We were seeing buses and Ubers pull up and letting people out. They were waiting until we left, and they were going to walk across,” Mr. Comer said.
The lawmakers watched one group of 45 people from Cuba and Uzbekistan make their way into the U.S., Mr. Comer recounted. Agents said they are also getting Syrians and Afghans and even nabbed some people from Poland.
“I don’t think that’s something the average person knows: These people are coming from all over the world,” Mr. Comer said.
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Department of Homeland Security numbers released this week bear that out.
Of the 221,303 unauthorized border crossers nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico line in March, nearly 90,000 came from beyond the traditional sending countries of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Border Patrol agents reported apprehending more than 15,000 Colombians, 16,000 Nicaraguans and 32,000 Cubans.
Cubans are particularly prevalent in border arrests in Arizona. Mr. Comer said they are claiming to be members of the LGBTQ community and demanding asylum.
Other countries such as Turkey and India accounted for fewer people, but each has shown a massive increase in numbers over the past year.
The 1,353 Indians whom agents nabbed in March was up fivefold from March 2021, and the 1,962 people from Turkey marked a 55-fold increase from the 35 whom agents arrested a year ago.
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Mexico also represented a resurgence of numbers in the March data, with nearly 90,000 caught by Border Patrol agents. That was the highest monthly total in years.
Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said the situation will get even worse when the Biden administration ends the Title 42 pandemic border shutdown next month.
Still, he said Homeland Security is ready to deliver a fair and welcoming hand to the flood of illegal immigrants.
“CBP is surging personnel and resources to the border, increasing processing capacity, securing more ground and air transportation, and increasing medical supplies, food, water, and other resources to ensure a humane environment for those being processed,” he said.
The department expects up to 18,000 illegal immigrants a day to be caught at the southern border. In March, about 7,000 were nabbed each day, which was itself a near-record pace.
During the early days of the Trump administration, there were times when the Border Patrol caught fewer than 15,000 migrants in an entire month.
Mr. Comer said agents already are overwhelmed. They told him they spend more than half their time performing administrative duties, such as writing reports on apprehensions or providing caretaking for the migrants in custody.
That leaves fewer people to guard the border.
“Under President Biden, he has turned the Border Patrol into the welcoming committee for anybody who wants to come to the United States, for any reason,” Mr. Comer said.
The border chaos has been a major boon for smuggling cartels, which most migrants are compelled to pay for the right to cross into the U.S.
The typical payment for a Mexican migrant in March was $10,000, according to The Washington Times’ database of border smuggling cases. Central Americans were paying $10,000 to $15,000. Those from farther afield can pay even more.
Cartels’ control of the border is so overwhelming that when Mr. Comer was there, he said, agents pointed out a house on the Mexican side where cartel operatives were keeping watch on the congressional delegation. Agents also pointed to a hilltop on the U.S. side where cartel scouts were thought to be messaging Border Patrol movements back to the Mexican side.
“This is an issue of national security, these spotters that are over here, they’re a national security threat,” Mr. Comer said. “Not only are they complicit in allowing the illegal drugs to cross the border … they’re also involved in crime, just horrific crimes.”
That demands the presence of U.S. troops, the lawmaker said.
“There’s no fear of the United States government,” he said.
National Guard troops have been deployed before, and some are still on the border as part of state details, but Mr. Comer said it’s time to send active-duty troops.
“It’s the fact that the United States isn’t putting up a fight,” he said. “We need to have a military presence on the border. There’s clear paths across from Mexico to the United States where these drug smugglers are walking every day.”