Just last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified before a Senate panel that Mexican drug cartels were operating in as many as 230 American cities. During her testimony, she claimed that cartels are the greatest organized crime threat to the United States.
The federal government’s refusal to secure the border has enabled Mexican cartels to operate across America. In April, a North Carolina DEA special agent reported that Mexican drug organizations have taken over most of the Charlotte heroin market.
At the same time in Oregon, about a dozen armed marijuana growers were caught working for a Mexican drug family. Last December, Salvador Guzman, a member of a Mexico-based cartel, imported and concealed kilograms of cocaine in the drive shaft of vehicles. He transported the drugs to the Midwest, dismantled the drive shafts, extracted the cocaine and delivered it to customers in Ohio and Tennessee.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations are now operating in every region of the United States. Last year, there were more than 200 incursions of ultra-light aircraft crossing the southwest border. These aircraft have become the transport of choice for many cartel operatives and traffickers to ferry drugs and cash and help give cartels links in virtually every state in America.
The Department of Justice now reports that Mexican cartels have expanded operations in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic, New York, New Jersey, and New England. Cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, and New York City, as well as parts of North Carolina, serve as consolidation points for tens of billions of dollars in bulk cash drug proceeds that are smuggled into Mexico.
Mexican cartels are also expanding outdoor marijuana cultivation in the U.S. from their traditional strongholds in California, Washington, and Oregon to states such as Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Cartels aren’t the only organizations that see our ill-defended border as their strategic opportunity. There is little doubt that terrorists are constantly attempting to illegally cross into our country to try and harm innocent Americans.
Since January, Mexican immigration officials have detained more than 600 individuals from more than two dozen nations trying to enter the United States illegally, including those from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.
Our porous border endangers every American, yet Washington refuses to make border security a priority. President Obama’s recent proposal, which would provide up to 1,200 members of the National Guard across a 2,000 mile border, would only add one guardsman for every 1.6 miles of border.
Obama’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2011 cuts the Secure Border Initiative by more than 25 percent and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program by more than 12 percent. At first, the White House even proposed cutting the Border Patrol by 181 agents, before many of us in Congress pushed back. The Obama’s proposals are an unacceptably small short-term solution to a large long-term border problem.
Last week, I offered an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill that would have deployed needed resources to secure our border. My amendment was fully paid for and reflected what law enforcement on the ground said they needed, but Senate Democrats blocked it using a procedural maneuver.
Some argued that preserving stimulus funds was a higher priority. Others argued that border security must remain linked to broader immigration reforms. I believe that credible immigration reform must begin with border security, because too many Americans no longer trust the federal government to secure the border or enforce the law.
The time to act is now. These cartels already have a known presence in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Until Washington restores its credibility on border security more states will be forced to act much like Arizona did. Washington needs a sense of urgency, or many American families will lose their sense of security.
Border security isn’t just a border state problem, it’s a United States problem.