One single sector of the southern border saw more than 10,000 illegal drone incursions from Mexico last year, a senior Border Patrol agent told Congress on Tuesday.
Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, who oversees the Rio Grande Valley sector in southern Texas, said the cartels use the drones to keep tabs on where the Border Patrol is, so they can figure ways to sneak people and other contraband such as drugs through the gaps.
She and John Modlin, chief patrol agent in the Tucson sector of Arizona, said the cartels are driving the chaos on the border, controlling the crossings and forcing the Border Patrol to react to the smugglers’ tactics.
“In Tucson sector, everything south of the border is controlled by the cartels,” Chief Modlin told the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.
He said the cartels have figured out new ways to keep agents distracted.
Where in the past groups of 10 or 12 people would come across and a single agent could nab them, now the cartels divide them up into one or two, which means it takes more agents to nab the same number. Chief Modlin said they call that “task saturation” and said the cartels are doing it intentionally.
Analysts have long warned of the cartels’ ability to pull the strings at the border — and they profit handsomely.
The Washington Times reported last year that cartels make at least $2.6 billion a year just for migrants paying to use the crossing routes through their territory. The overall smuggling economy, including payments to drivers, stash house operators and coordinators, is more than $20 billion.