Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) warned about the need for the U.S. to work with its Mexican partners to combat the 19 drug trafficking organizations operating in Mexico, but said some in the U.S. intelligence community are worried about “potential corruption” there.
“There’s a drug trafficking problem in central and northern Mexico, absolutely, but right now many of these border communities are incredibly safe. People are going back and forth every single day and the images you see in movies like ‘Sicario’ are not the reality right now,” Hurd said at the Brookings Institution.
“My friends in the intelligence communities are concerned with potential corruption in some of the folks we are working with. The narco traficantes are making conservatively $50 billion a year in the United States – that’s a pretty big number and that’s a conservative number and they are organized, they are well financed and that’s the threat you are looking at, and the U.S. intelligence budget is roughly $50 billion,” he added.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said 250,000 pounds of heroin, equivalent to roughly $25 billion, was smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico across the border in 2014 alone.
“We need to put more assets in the hands of law enforcement and our military to try to make sure we help our friends in Mexico and elsewhere interdict these drugs before they get to the United States,” he said.
In June, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Customs and Border Protection agents are only stopping about 5 to 10 percent of the illegal drugs coming across the border into the U.S.
“If you really want a metric that lays out how completely unsecure our border is, and starts pointing to the root cause of the insecurity at our border, it’s our interdiction of drugs. We had Gen. McCaffrey testify that today we are only interdicting about 5 to 10 percent of illegal drugs coming to this country,” Johnson said.
Hurd said GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is not the first person to suggest building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which he argued is the “least effective” border plan.
“The political rhetoric – that’s there, but guess what? It’s always been there. Donald Trump is not the first one to say ‘build a wall’ from sea to shining sea, alright, and that’s the most expensive and least effective way of doing border security,” he said.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) cited a reduced amount of apprehensions as evidence that illegal immigration is lower than previous years.
“You are today seeing record-low numbers of apprehensions, under 400,000,” he said.
Some Republican lawmakers have criticized the use of the apprehensions metric because it does not take into account undetected illegal crossings. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) has introduced the Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015, which would require the secretary of Homeland Security to gain and maintain “operational control” of the international borders of the U.S.
The Obama administration no longer uses operational control as a metric for border security. In 2011, the Border Patrol only had operational control of 873 miles along the nearly 2,000-mile-long U.S. Mexico border, according to the Government Accountability Office.