tv Senate Judiciary Hearing on Drug Cartels Border Security CSPAN January 3, 2019 10:31am-1:00pm EST
and it's a major tourist destination. it's most well known for being a place where people might come to enjoy the day and be a tourist and also now it's a popular place for young tech start-up companies. >> and on sunday at 2:00 p.m. eastern, on american history tv o santa monica pier historian author of santa monica pier a century on the last great pleasure pier, shares the history of this iconic landmark. >> we see almost 9 million people a year come to the pier and that's people of all walks of life, all income levels, all interests. there is almost as many different reasons to come to the pier as there are people that come to visit it. i think if you were to walk down the pier today on any given day, and ask what brought them here, you would get a different reason from each one of them. >> watch c-span city tour of santa monica, california, saturday at noon eastern on
c-span 2's book tv and sunday at 2:00 p.m. on american history tv on c-span 3. working with our cable affiliates as we explore the american story. >> the senate judiciary subcommittee on immigration held a hearing last month on drug cartels and border security. witnesses included the border patrol chief and an official from the drug enforcement administration. good afternoon and welcome. today's hearing entitled narco, transnational cartel and border security. today's hearing will provide an
opportunity for us to look beyond our borders and examine the larger problems contributing to the crisis along our borders. if you watched the news recently you can see just how serious the crisis has become back in the time when we had thousands of unaccompanied minors to the rio grande valley sector, president obama called that a humanitarian crisis that would describe what's happening today in and around tijuana and the san ysidro bridge. there are thousands of migrants waiting at our southern border trying to enter the united states. this is not a new phenomenon. regardless of which party is in control we've dealt with a sudden influx of migrants in the decades. in the 1980s the cuban boat lifts, 1990s the cuban and
haitian influx and a few years ago as i mentioned 2014 we saw a surge of unaccompanied minors from central america. improving our border security doesn't mean just improving physical security along our border. it means addressing the problems that bring them here in the first place. the mass movement is only a symptom of a greater problem, one i hope we will discuss? detail today. one of the greatest the threats to national security is the trafficking of goods intoed united states. there is no single port of origin for those crimes and we see this flow stemming from around the world. from east asia, africa, and south america. trafficking is big business and unfortunately for us, they've proven to be pretty good at it. proceeds from illicit drug sales are worth approximately $64 billion annually.
that's billions, not millions. that money isn't fueling the u.s. economy. it's lining the pockets of criminals, the cartels, the n narcos if you will, and continuing to perpetrate the cycle. in short, i think they're winning in this effort, notwithstanding our efforts, notwithstanding heroic efforts of law enforcement and other government officials, because frankly, congress hasn't awakened to the real crisis and come up with a solution to deal with it at multiple levels. drug cartels transnational criminal organizations and international gangs will stop at nothing to ensure that their business model remains intact and profitable. and that the international corridors for trafficking remain wide open. they are shrewd. they are adaptive. and they evolve. they use every tactic in the book to further their criminal
enterprises, whether it is murdering government officials, regular folks, threatening people, intimidating people, raping, torture, slavery, fraud, pedaling fake documents, money laundering, the list goes on and on and on. not only are we dealing with ruthless criminal enterprises, we're battling enemies that are ever evolving, as i said, and constantly on the move. they are what i heard referred to as commodity agnostic. they really don't care, as long as they make money. they don't care who they kill, who they hurt, or what the consequences of their criminal enterprise are. they spread terror. they prey on the weak. they have taken control over large parts of mexico and several central american countries. we frequently see these criminal organizations preying on migrants headed toward this country's southern border. they will offer to smuggle migrants or their children, safely across the border, in exchange for money. but as today's witnesses can attest, this safe journey is
anything but. too often, these migrants are abandoned, or crammed into the back of an 18-wheeler, with a dozen other victims, i've seen it time and time again, that these groups have absolutely no respect for human life. it is not just the people who die at their hands, while attempting to enter the united states illegally. it is the poison that they import into the country. america's opioid crisis is being further fueled by the illicit narcotics being smuggled by these organizations. fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is one of the deadliest drugs in the world and its analogs are mainly manufactured in china and then smuggled into the united states by these organizations. the growing influence of cartels, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations has led to global and regional insecurity. there's a need for increased security cooperation to be sure
with our neighbors in mexico and certainly central america. just to name a couple. the united states needs to work with our international partners to develop a comprehensive plan to address these problems. this war on drugs, trafficking and smuggling is one that affects all of us, and it's time we pick up our pace in dealing with it in a focused and hopefully successful way. again, this problem does not begin or end at our borders. this is a global problem. for our purposes, focused primarily on our country's to the south, but certainly the avenues available into the united states can be exploited by anybody who's got the money or the will to try to come into the united states illegally. so by partnering with governments in asia, africa, europe, and central america, we can begin to fight these cartels, and take the money and the profits out of their sordid business.
i look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the scope of the problems. i think one of the biggest challenges we have is a lack of public awareness. this is not looking through a soda straw at what is happening at the san ysidro bridge at tijuana. this is a much bigger problem, much more complex and one that we need to open that aperture and you will help us here today in trying to understand before we can begin to come up with solutions. before turning to senator durbin for his opening remarks i would ask unanimous consent to senator grassley's opening statement for this hearing be included in the record which it will be without objection. senator durbin? >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me say to you and to the witnesses and the audience, my apologies for coming in a few minutes late. i was on the floor for the farewell address of my, our colleague senator nelson. and i'm sorry that i was not here at the moment i should have been. mr. chairman, thank you for this hearing. it was almost ten years ago that i held my first hearing as the
chairman of the crime and drug subcommittee in this room. the subject of the hearing, the threat to the united states posed by the mexican drug cartels. ten years ago, we had that hearing. at this hearing, in march of 2009, i quoted a justice department report that concluded, mexican drug cartels are, quote, the greatest organized crime threat to the united states. so here we are ten years later. how are we doing? last month, the d.e.a.'s 2018 national drug threat assessment concluded that mexican drug cartels remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the united states. i close my 2009 hearing, by saying we must take action to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the united states, and stem the flow of illegal guns and money to mexico. democrats and republicans must work together to find bipartisan common sense solutions to this challenge.
now, today, ten years later, we are in the midst of a drug epidemic like we've never seen before. in 2017, drug overdoses in the united states killed a record 70,237 people. the deadliest drug we face is fentanyl. last year, 28,466 overdose deaths involving fentanyl, an increase of more than 45% over the previous year. much of this fentanyl comes from china, through the mails. but fentanyl is also being shipped from china to mexico, before being trafficked across the u.s. border. the d.e.a. has found that the cartels transport the bulk of their illicit goods over the southwest border through legal ports of entry, using passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers. yesterday, we had a hearing in the same room, the customs and border protection commissioner mr. mcleanen, told me directly,
in october of 2017, that his top priority was to secure the border with more drive-through inspection systems which he characterized as z portals. when i asked him what he needed to keep narcotics out of the united states and make it safer, he said technology and personnel. he did not say a wall. acouldn't be to the department of homeland security, these drive-through inspection systems, which mr. mcleanen has referred to, examine 98% of all the rail cars passing into the united states. but only 18% of cargo passenger vehicles and sea containers combined. 98% of the railroad. 18% of the others. yet the 2019 president's budget request included only $44 million for these systems. i asked yesterday, what would it take, what do you need to put these portal systems
in, that basically scan these vehicles as they come through, to try to detect contraband, drugs, people being smuggled, drug trafficking, human trafficking, what do you need? he said $300 million. that's a fraction of $5 billion that this president is demanding for the wall. and the administration sadly in its budget request did not ask for any funding for additional customers officers, even though we clearly need more officers to detect drugs at the ports of entry and in international mail. it was about six months ago that i got off a plane at o'hare, instead of heading into chicago, stayed out there at a postal facility, and took a look at how we monitor the mail coming into the united states, to try and detect drugs that are being sent by mail. and it happens every day. it is a good system. but it is not nearly what it should be. the people there will tell you
that. they work at it and they catch some of them, but a lot of them are not caught. instead, what the president is telling us now, is we have to shut down our government. if he doesn't get $5 billion for a wasteful ineffective border wall. we need modern drug technology to stop the drug cartels from importing the poison that is killing our kids. not a medieval solution like a wall from sea to shining sea. this is a circle, too. they aren't just exporting drugs into the united states. we are exporting drugs and laundered drug money into mexico. what have we done to stop the iron river of guns from the united states that arms mexican cartels to the teeth? in 2016, the jao found that 70% of crime guns seized in mexico traced through atf's crime gun tracing program, came from the united states. according to the jao, and i quote, most were purchased legally at gun shows, and gun
shows in the united states, and then trafficked illegally to mexico. the federal agencies with jurisdiction over the southern flow of guns, or atf, which enforces federal gun laws and i.c.e., which enforces export laws and investigates traffickers and cartels, are they doing enough? atf and i.c.e. have an agreement that governs their coordination on firearms trafficking from the united states to mexico. but in 2016, the jao found that there were shortfalls in information sharing and collaboration between atf and i.c.e., and that improvement was needed. i'm going to be sending a letter to the general accounting office asking them to update their 2016 report, and to expand it to look at firearms trafficking to central american countries. i invite my colleagues to join me. customs and border protection also play a key role here. the jao found, and i quote, custom and border protections outbound mission is to facilitate the movement of
legitimate cargo while interdicting the illegal export of weapons and other contraband out of the united states. however in 2017, a cbd spokesperson said that outbound inspections are only conducted quote, when resources permit. why on earth doesn't this administration request more resources for outbound inspections to stop the export of deadly firearms from the united states to these mexican cartels? one thing congress should do is finally prohibit straw purchasing and gun trafficking under federal law. right now, the u.s. attorneys office have to prosecute those crimes as paperwork violations which means most of them won't spend any time doing it at all. i have joined with senator leahy and senator collins on a bill that would create federal offenses with real teeth for this effort. during my hearing ten years ago, we heard testimony about the smuggling of bulk cash and laundered money from the united
states back to cartels. it is the circle. they export narcotics in the united states. we export drugs, pardon me, we export guns and laundered money back into these cartels. we wonder why they're so powerful. according to the latest dea drug threat assessment, the amount of bulk cash seized has been steadily decreasing over the last eight years. dea reports that, quote, large amounts of cash continue to be interdicted among major highway corridors. with the cash typically concealed and hidden vehicle compartments or among legitimate cargo. there would be strong bipartisan support in congress for more resources for outbound inspections if only the administration put as much priority on this effort as they do on a wall. there is more that congress can do. in 2013 when democrats controlled the senate we passed bipartisan comprehensive
immigration reform. do you know how much was included in that bill for border security funding? $40 billion and over 60 senators voted for it. no lack of will when it comes to border security. sadly, the republican leaders in the house refuse to even consider the bill. earlier this year we tried it again after we got the report for mr. bacalenan and others and i worked on a bipartisan agreement to include the border security provisions he asked for, increasing the funding for the z portal scanning devices and port of entry infrastructure and personnel and the exit screening. on february 15th, a bipartisan majority of the senate supported our agreement with this border security included, but it failed to reach the 60 votes it needed because the president opposed it. on the same day a bipartisan super majority of the senate rejected the president's alternative bill. we've got to be honest about the
challenges we face and smart about the way we use our resources to address them. i'll work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reform our broken immigration system and improve security. reducing cartel violence and smuggling will not be accomplished by a border wall and punishing innocent victims of cartel violence who are desperately seeking safety in the united states. we have to work to address the drug epidemic in our nation, stop the weapons and cash that flow south to cartels and collaborate more effectively with regional nations to strengthen their economies and to decrease cartel violence. thank you, mr. chairman. >> well, i was glad to hear that ten years ago it was convened on some aspects of the same problem, but being an optimist, based on what you were saying, i see some common ground for investing in scanning devices and customs officers dealing with the straw purchasers and the bulk cash transfers across the border.
i see some components of a -- of some legislation that we can work on together like we've worked on criminal justice reform which i hope is successful, but at the same tim that during the gang of eight immigration bill, you said there were $40 billion appropriated for border security and in the daca proposal that got 44 votes, i think it was $25 billion and i'm still confused about the fight over $5 billion. but i agree with you, it shouldn't be just about physical barriers, it should be about technology, it should be about personnel, it is more of a system is the way i tend to think of it. maybe the chief will enlighten us further. i'm sure she will. so it is my pleasure to introduce our witnesses for the first panel. mr. kemp chester is the assistant director of the opioid coordination group and the office of national drug control policy. before coming to omdcp, mr.
chester was a senior director for national security and intelligence at a private sector consulting firm in washington, d.c. and before that completed 27 years of service in the united states army. ending service as deputy director for intelligence of the americas regional center and chief of the office of counter narcotics worldwide. janice ayala is from the task force u.s. immigration and custom enforcement. prior to her current position she served as the deputy director of joints task force west. she's served as a special agent in charge for i.c.e., homeland security investigations in my home town, san antonio, texas and at i.c.e. headquarters as the assistant director of domestic operations. as the assistant director for domestic operations, she oversaw the investigative efforts of more than 7,000 special agents
assigned to 26 sack offices throughout the united states. including investigative matters relating to national security, money laundering, bulk and drug cash smuggling and human smuggling and trafficking. the third witness is familiar to the committee, she's been here before, ms. carla provost. chief of the u.s. border patrol at the u.s. customs and border protection. before her current position, chief provost served within border patrol, including as field operations supervise in the tucson sector, from el sent row sector and chief patrol agent for the yuma sector. mr. paknierim is from the drug enforcement agency. before his current position,
deputy chief knierim was assigned to the queto -- thank you, ecuador country office. he also served as the country attache in the costa rica country office and for the the north and central american region based in mexico city. thank you for being here today. i would like for each of you to provide us with an opening statement. we have a written document from each of you, don't feel you need to read that, that will be made part of the record. mr. chester we'll turn to you. >> chairman cornyn and ranking member -- >> sir, i need one matter of business. i need to swear you in, please. do you swear or affirm the testimony given before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god?
thank you. >> excuse me, mr. chester, please start again. >> yes, sir. chairman cornyn and ranking member durbin and members of the s sub-committ sub-committee on behalf of deputy carol, thank you for inviting us here to discuss the threat posed to the united states by mexican transnational criminal organizations and u.s./mexico cooperation to address drug policy issues in both countries. on february 9th, 2017 president trump signed an executive order stating the transnational criminal organizations including drug cartels represent a threat to the safety of the united states and its citizens. mexican cartels primarily derive economic power from the production and movement and sale of illegal drugs. drugs provide the means for mexican cartels to employ military grade weapon systems, attempt to corrupt justice and security officials and expand their territorial control in mexico and in u.s. markets making them the greatest criminal threat to the united
states. in 2017 mexican cartels cultivated 44,100 hectors of opium poppy and produced 111 metric tons of pure heroin in mexico. smuggling the majority to the united states. increasingly mexican cartels are pressing fentanyl and analogs produced in china into fake prescription pills and smuggling them across the southwest border,mexican cartels produce the majority of the methamphetamine consumed in the united states and they facilitate column been cartel traffics of cocaine which is increasingly effecting or communities. the two previous mexican delegations attempted to con front the cartels in their own ways. however, despite mexico best efforts, these cartels have exploited vulnerabilities in governmental institutions at all levels. allowing the economic expansion
beyond drug trafficking. the profit-earning potential of mexican cartels exceed the mexico government allocated to homeland security which amounts to less than 1% of mexico annual budget. the governments of the united states and mexico have developed a common understanding of the impact of mexican cartels are having on both countries and currently view addressing this burden as a shared responsibility. ondcp engaged directly with the government of mexico and as a participant in high level bilateral meetings including the security cooperation group and the high level dialogue on disrupting transnational criminal organizations. moreover, the tri-lateral north american drug dialogue shared by the department of state brings together the government of the united states, mexico and canada to expanse counter drug operation in north america and allows all three countries to cooperate closely on the tcl threat throughout the couldn
couldn't -- continent. ondcp is focused on three primary goals. first, to complete what is called the monitoring system of crops in mexico program, and in conjunction with the un office of drugs and crime to understand the opium in mexico. this is the first crop field study completed in more than 15 years. second, to complete a program funded by the state department bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs that provides a legitimate technical validation of mexico poppy eradication progress. and third, to use these programs to establish an greed upon united states/mexico poppy eradication program and a shared goal and joint strategy for mexico. on december 1st, president was inaugurated as mexico president vowing to fight corruption and develop a new vision to improve
mexico internal security. a few weeks prior to his inauguration president lopez obrador presented his security plan to address security concerns in mexico and one of the plans eight pillars is develop a narcotics strategy. although specific details of this narcotics strategy were not presented, we expect that it will contain concrete and deliberate measures to directly address the cartel problem that affects both our countries and we stand ready to continue our close and productive relationship with the new administration in this endeavor. in closing, the dynamic nature of the elicit market place controlled by mexican cartels demands the united states continue to engage with mexico to prevent the on going proliferation of drugs that transit through mexico. we cannot allow mexican cartels to continue to contribute to the dangerous and often fatal effects of illicit drug use in the united states. we'll continue to work with our
international partners across the federal government and with our partners at the state, local and tribal levels to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the united states and decrease the effects they are having in our communities. the american people should expect nothing less from us. thank you for the opportunity to testify today and i'll be happy to answer your questions. >> thank you mr. chester. miss ayala. >> chairman and ranking member durbin, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. u.s. immigration and customs enforcement governor border patrol and customs enforcement to promote homeland security. homeland security investigations and enforcement and removal operations and the office of principal legal adviser and employing more than 20,000 employees in over 200 offices across the u.s. and in 50 countries. today i will provide i.c.e. perspective on the challenges we face, the sophisticated smuggling threats on the southwest border and some of what we do to address the
smuggling activities well before contraband arrives at our borders or enters into the united states. i'm an hsi assistant director serving as director of joints task force investigations for the department of homeland security. and in 2014 former secretary jeh johnson directed a departmentwide comprehensive seek strategy across dhs and commissioned three task forces. jtf investigations and jtf east and west. they are focused on the u.s. southern land and maritime borders and jtfi is responsible for enhancing criminal investigations. to accomplish this, jtfi has a nomination selection process for homeland crim organization targets which are the top criminal networks impacting homeland security and operations through national case management. i.c.e. is the executive agent of jtfi which consists of over 70
interagency investigators, officers and analysts. as the largest investigative component within dhs, hsi conducts international law enforcement operations and investigations to combat tco and prevent terrorist activities. the prime tco that threaten our border are mexico drug cartels and over the last decade the united states working with mexican counterparts have had sustained success in attacking cartel leadership. however the tcos are hirely networked and adapt daily based on u.s. law enforcement activities. they move illicit proceeds and hide assets and conduct transactions globally and transfer by bulk cash smuggling and professional money launders and cryptocurrency and emerging payment systems. cartels exploit vulnerabilities in u.s. and mexico financial systems and conduct layered financial transactions to
circumvent regulatory scrutiny. the u.s. government has refined our ability to target money laundering and financial violations through interagency investigations, capacity building and financial sanctions and interaction with jurisdictions. they use gangs for extortion, kidnapping and for violent acts. in 2005 hsi established operation community shield, an international law enforcement initiative to combat the growth of transnational street prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs. in 2012 hsi worked with office of foreign assets control to designate ms-13 as a tco, the first criminal street gang so designated. we've assigned 1500 special agents and intelligence research specialists to southwest border offices and since 2005 to borpder enforcement security trask forces to include two border tunnel task forces to provide response to border security and national security.
hsi led or comprised of more than 180 local, state and tribal and law enforcement agencies. due to the success, the border enforcement security task force was signed into law in 2012. mexico is proven to be an if outstanding partner in the fight against tso so throughout south america lead investigative un unit --s which are enforcing violations of law in the respective countries. these efforts often thousands of miles from the u.s./mexico border in colombia and panama are security for the southwest border. dur fy-2018 hsi investigations led to 32444 criminal arrests and including 3600 transnational gang members and seizure of over a million pounds of narcotics and we made over 1100 seizures for violations of export laws and seized over 1.2 billion in
currency and monetary instruments. we identified and assisted over 300 trafficking victims. thank you for your committed support to dhs, i.c.e. and our missions and your interest in these important issues and i'll be pleased to answer any questions you may have. >> chief provost. >> thank you. chairman cornyn, ranking member, durbin, it is my honor to appear before you today. this saturday, december 15th, marks eight years since border patrol agent brian terry was murdered by members of a cartel rip crew during a gun fight in southern arizona. the rip crews pat role our border with mexico looking for opportunities to rob illegal aliens and other drug smugglers. agent terry was a military veteran, a former police officer, and had served with the border patrol for over 3 and a half years. his murder was a great loss for our agency and illustrates the dangers presented by cartels and their associates.
cartels and other transnational criminal organizations or tcos are a threat to our national security and public safety. tcos maintain a diverse portfolio of criminal activity including fraud, human trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion. they are heavily involved in all kinds of smuggling. moving people, weapons, cash and drugs through sophisticated criminal networks. in fiscal year 2018, the border patrol seized more than $7 million in currency, more than 7,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin and more than 450,000 pounds of marijuana. methamphetamine seizures increased -- have increased 75% since fiscal year '15. and when we -- we have seen a 115% increase in fentanyl seizure present the ports this last year. tcos have gangs to expand the
domestic distribution process. this means tco present a threat at borders, through crim networks they present a threat to the interior of our country as well. last year the border patrol apprehended more than 800 gang members, a 50% increase over the previous year. this is in addition to the nearly 6700 aliens we apprehended last year who have criminal histories including theft, drug and weapon trafficking and violent crimes. tco conduct operations without regard for human life and money and power are the only motivation. the networks are commodity agnostic. they move people with no more care than guns or bundles of drugs. desperate aliens who enter the network are at risk of being beaten assaulted, raped and even killed on the journey to our border.
tcos are motivated and ruthless. they may operate as businesses but they do not play by the rules of law and they are not bound by the bureaucratic impediments we sometimes face in government. they will stop at nothing to gain power and profit. they are agile and adaptable, willing to spend countless resources to maintain and expand control of their criminal enterprises. to address the tco threat we must have a united comprehensive strategy and an aggressive approach across all levels of government. cbp must continue to work in conjunction with law enforcement partners including my colleagues represented on this panel today to interdict illegal aliens, drugs, cash and weapons at the border. this is a key component of u.s. border security and by extension our national security. thanks to the support of congress in the past decade, the department of homeland security has deployed more personnel, technology and tactical
infrastructure than at any other time in our history. as tcos continue to exploit the environment for their own financial gains, we must continue investing in all of these tools in the highest priority areas along the border. today we have already begun upgrading old vehicle barriers to better impede illegal cross border activities like drug running. we have already prioritized high traffic locations that lack border infrastructure for deployment of new barriers, the latest technology and additional personnel. we stand ready to execute and look forward to working with congress on these priorities. my men and women on the front line are facing this threat every day. it is my honor to represent them in their efforts to make our country safer by bravely combatting cartels and other tco threats. when border patrol agents report to work, they have no way of knowing what they may encounter. a family lost in the desert or a cartel rip crew armed with fully
automatic weapons. the job is unpredictable and demanding. but whether they are stopping criminals and narcotics or saving lives, the men and women of the border patrol are well trained and effective guardians of american's frontlines. i thank you for your time and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, chief. there is a vote on in the senate and so senator durbin has gone to go vote and i'll vote and turn the gavel over to senator cruz who will preside and we'll be back shortly. mr. knierim. >> good afternoon. it is an honor to appear before you today to discuss mexican cartels, the extent of their efforts to manufacture, transport and distribute illicit narcotics within the united states and our efforts to combat this threat. i've had the privilege of being a dea special agent since 1991. when i reflect on the 27 years
of experience, the sophistication of the cartels worries me now more than ever. dangerous and highly sophisticated transnational criminal organizations or cartels operating in both mexico and the united states have been and will continue to be the most significant source of illicit narcotics trafficked inside of the united states. whether it is heroin and synthetic opioids or cocaine, the mexican cartels are the primary source of illicit drugs on our street. perhaps the most disturbing is the confluence of three things. the synthetic drug threat, the epidemic of opioid abuse and the cartels attempt to expand profits by intentionally mixing fents tents an al with heroin and other illicit drugs including cocaine and methamphetamine. this is done one for simple reason. greed. this is a national threat of public health emergency fueled by fent an al which is cheap to
make, hard to detect and dangerously potent. chinese and mexican nationals are operating in concert resulting in an alignment responsible for the proliferation of heroin and fent an al and related synthetics across the southwest border. and a kilo gram could be purchased for less than $5,000 from china and profits from that sale of kilogram could exceed $1.5 million. they are seizing on the suffering of thousands of individuals to generate profit. aside from the proliferation of heroin and synthetic opioids, they continue to transport methamphetamine and cocaine across the southwest border at an alarming rate. we can't lose focus on cocaine and methamphetamine. the cartels are responsible for the trafficking of record amounts of methamphetamine entering the united states. recent increases in cocoa
cultivation and cocaine production are troublely and foreshadows importation and abuse and overdose deaths in the united states from these substances as well. dea anticipates that mexican cartels such as the sinaloa and the jalisco and the juarez cartel and gulf cartel and the losalityos and the [ inaudible ] organization will continue to be the primary network operating in more than one country to plan and execute the criminalent prize. these mexican cartels do not observe boundaries or laws in mexico, the united states or any other country. as you know, in 2016 mexico extradited el chapo guzman to the united states and just recently his trial ensued in the district of new york. we've already heard one of his top lieutenants testify to the sinaloa cartel leaders expensive, lucrative and cruel and ruthless operations. the details of his testimony
further highlight the ability of the cartels to influence legitimate professionals such as accountants, attorneys, notaries, bankers and real estate brokers for cross both illicit worlds and provide services to legitimate customers and criminals across the globe. this is why we partner with my colleagues at the table before you today and with our state, local and tribal and international law enforcement partners, especially mexico. let me also briefly mention my gratitude as well as that of all of the dea to our mexican law enforcement, military and security counterparts with whom we have partnered and many times have made the ultimate sacrifice. our shared goal of protecting citizens from harm and keeping destructive substances out of our society is one unites us together in partnership. this leads me to what dea is doing to counter the threat. we recognize this will take persistent effort across a broad sprekt rum to include interagency and global partnerships.
for decades we've maintained a worldwide presence to address the source of drugs and in this case we have a robust partnership in mexico. in mexico dea continues to synchronize and expand capabilities to combat the growing epidemic. we have developed a bilateral heroin strategy for intelligence sharing coordinated investigations, training and increased sharing of forensic information and the control of precursor chemicals. we participate in a north american drug dialogue along with federal government officials from mexico, canada and the united states that focuses on building a strategy to attack the production of trafficking and consumption and misuse of illicit narcotics in north america. this will require a community of effort at every level. state, local, federal and with our dedicated international partners such as mexico. dea will continue to aggressively pursue criminal trafficking and illicit drugs targeting the most prolific and dangerous drug traffickers is a
dynamic mission and with it comes myriad of challenges, throughout our history dea has aggressively met those challenges and produced impressive results. we look forward to continuing to work with you and your senate colleagues to identify the resources and authorities necessary to complete our mission. thank you for the opportunity to testify before your committee on this important issue and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, sir. let me say thank you to each of the witnesses. thank you for your service. each of you works at an incredibly difficult and important job and we are grateful for the hard work you put in. mr. chester, let's talk about fentanyl for a minute. fentanyl is killing americans each and every day. can you tell this committee where it comes from and how it makes its way into the united states? >> yes, senator. and you're absolutely correct. what we've seen over the last two-plus years in the united
states is the rise in the prevalence and the lethality of fentanyl in the u.s. community to the point it has outpaced heroin and all other drugs in terms of mortality in the united states. the fentanyl in the united states is primarily manufactured in china and it is not only the -- the base fentanyl molecule itself but there are -- we have cbp has encountered 30 different analogs of the fentanyl molecule chipped to the united states. there are two primary routes. first one is individuals who get on the internet, usually on the dark web, using cryptocurrency, purchase it for themselves, for their own use or for distribution to a small number of known users and that generally comes in the country through the u.s. mail system or express consignment carriers who are commercial carriers. the second way -- >> what quantity are we talking about. >> very small quantities.
so you are really talking 600, 700, 800 grams and because of that and the potency and the lethality, it is purchased at a low dollar amount. so not only is it in a small package hard to detect and it is a dollar figure that doesn't raise suspicion. that is the one primary vector of the united states. the second one is up through mexico where finished fentanyl is purchased in china, sent to mexico, and then either shipped as part of a poly drug load across the southwest border, mixed in and milled with heroin orrin ert matter like lactose south of the border and brought up and sold as synthetic heroin or the third way is pressed into pils and sold as fake prescription opioids and brought in large numbers of pills across the southwest border. so there are several different vectors for it to get into the united states. we can very clearly see the public health effects that it
has in the united states and fentanyl and its analogs will continue to be a substantial problem in our drug environment in america. >> how many deaths are we looking at on an annual basis from fentanyl. >> the most recent data we have -- in 2017 was 28,400 deaths or about nine per day. and that is what is termed by the centers for disease control and prevention is synthetic other than methadone and that is a 47% increase from the previous year. >> and what is the role of the mexican drug cartels in bringing fentanyl into this country? >> principleablely the role is to purchase it from mexico -- or from china and then process it there in mexico and then bring it into the united states for distribution through their own cartel distribution chains and then to a face-to-face sale in
the united states. one of the things that makes fentanyl so attractive for drug cartels is the low up front price and the high profits on the far end and that is whether it is mixed into heroin and purchased by an intervenous drug users, by a known drug user or sold as a fake pill to an unwitting person who believes they are getting oxycontin but they are getting fentanyl. >> and do you have an assessment of how much money the cartels are making from this trafficking. >> trafficking as a whole? >> let's take fentanyl or overall, both. >> overall and i believe it was senator cornyn who quoted the price of about $64 billion today and that is absolutely within the realm of the possibility, $64. the drugs continue to be the most lucrative and reliable
source of income for transnational criminal organizations in mexico. >> chief prostate overnig-- chik you for your courage and service. >> thank you. >> let me ask you from your perspective, what additional tools are needed to slow down or stop this flow of fentanyl and other illegal drugs into the country? >> well, thank you, senator. there are numerous things that we need. as you know, the border is very dynamic and there is no one thing that is just seems to be that main issue that would stop it. we need between the ports of entry in particular, obviously more technology, more detection technology, we need more men and women. i need more canine handlers. we utilize them quite a bit. and of course i do need more
barrier because that does impede and deny and does prevent the entries. at the port of entry, there was discussion earlier and my colleagues over there are expanding their nonintrusive technology which we also utilize at our check points and that is certainly assists us as well but it is a no one size fits all but a mixture of all of those things. >> one of the tools you mentioned that you needed was more physical barriers, be it a wall or other forms of physical barriers. as you know we're in the midst of vigorous debates right now in the senate. let me ask you, in your professional experience, what is the impact of a wall or physical barrier and what are the benefits of it? >> personally and just to keep it on topic with cartels, when i was an agent in douglas, arizona, east of douglas one night there was a drive-thru, as we call them and we used to have numerous drive-thrus in the area. i was involved in the seizure of
over 490 pounds of cocaine. thankfully the drive shaft on the truck broke as the vehicle was trying to get back south away from us. we had no barrier at that time along the border in that area. once we put barrier in in that area, the drive-thrus stopped. that is just one example when it comes to particularly narcotics smuggling. but as you know, senator, the barriers are needed for impedence and denial. technology provides a completely different capability for us. it provides situational awareness and we certainly need that as well. but if we can't impede and deny and when we're talking about a 2,000 mile border and very difficult terrain to work in, then the situational awareness lets me know something is crossing but it sure doesn't stop it from crossing. >> so in terms of technology, what have you found is most effective, being it a virtual barrier, infrared, fixed wing, rotary aircraft, what has the
greatest positive impact enabling you to most effectively do your job? >> because of the diversity of the border, we find a mixture of all of those things. and it truly depends upon the area. when we are talking about areas with quick vanishing times, obviously having camera technology so we could see -- wh we work in the repoet areas more detection capability is necessary for us. we've been expanding our tools in our tool kit and have found that having a diverse tool kit is critical for us to be able to deploy the appropriate resources in the appropriate location. >> miss ayala, can you describe the extent of the violence perpetrated by mexican drug cartels, both in the united states and in mexico? >> i would say that mexican cartels and cartels in general have become more and more
violent. they follow a pattern of violence and then when certain federal officials are sent to a certain areas, then the areas calm down and they are discouraged from violence in order for them to pursue their trafficking activities throughout the border area, south of the border. on this side of the border, i think we saw a lot of violence as far as in 2005 in the south texas border and then later on murders and then later on what we saw was mostly the purchase of weapons to smuggle to the -- to mexico in order to engage in extortion and other assault and violent actions and torture on the mexican side. we see the cartels are using ms-13 and other gang members for kidnapping and extortion and other violent crimes that fall
under the rico statutes -- >> and what extent is that crossing north of the border into the united states? >> excuse me? >> to what extent is that crossing north of the border into the united states? >> well as far as when we're talking about the gang piece, to put in perspective, we have about 100,000 ms-13 gang members in the northern triangle. and more than half of them are [ inaudible ] and 15,000 in jail and 30,000 on the street. we have 10,000 gang members here. ms-13 gang members here in the united states. and through our operation community shield the last five or six years we've picked up over 8500 ms-13 members associates and seized multi-ton quantities of drugs and weapons and other violent implements, whether it be ammunition and so forth. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator cruz, for
covering that while we were voting. >> and we arranged for the protesters to occur while you were gone. >> good timing. so let me ask each of you, or anybody who has an answer, but not that long ago the united states government decided we needed to do something to help the government of colombia deal with the narco traffickers and cocaine in particular that was coming up into the united states to deal with things like cocoeradication and provide equipment and training for colombia. i was there four months ago and while things aren't perfect, they are far, far better and i think most people who paid attention would say that plan colombia was success. nothing is 100% successful and the challenge -- many challenges still remain and president duke
who is just recently elected is made a commitment to more cocoeradication than his predecessor had. but do we need a plan in central america or plan in colombia or something like that, mr. chester? >> yes. i could start off and then other members could add if they would like to. you're absolutely right on the success of plan colombia and i think plan colombia combined two things. the first was the physical eradication of cocoa to the manifestation of the problem and built the campus itd of the columbian military to deal with the problem on the ground. what we have in mexico is the merit initiative. and the initiative is the primary vehicle and it is administered by the department of state with the four pillars
in order to build strong communities, build institutions, build capacity and go after transnational organized crime. since its inception ten years ago, the initiative funding has been about $1.3 billion to the government of mexico. and it made a substantial difference in mexico's capability to be able to deal with this problem as a partner. a lot of the activities that we have with the government of mexico in terms of the professionalization of the military forces, the training and capacity-building for their police to things like prison reform and transitioning to the new criminal justice system including one of the programs that i mentioned in my opening statement, are funded through the initiative and that is a very important component of what we're doing with mexico. it is not exactly an al gus but followed the same model of being able to handle the physical
problem on the ground and then build capacity of the forces themselves. >> the rest of you have a comment about that, chief? >> just to comment, sir. you're exactly right, working with our partners in central america is key. we continue to expand our foot print to assist. whether it is -- in this case, talking about the cartels and the narcotics that are coming into this country. we rely heavily on our relationships, much like we do in mexico, it is critical that we do continue to expand our efforts in central america as well. >> mr. knierim. >> yes. i would just echo what has been said. i think the bilateral relationships and partnerships we're able to develop and really lead to a joint focused integrated effort to address the threats and things like the merit initiative and others that do really bring a coalition together in order to build
capacity as well as strengthen those relationships and partnerships so while you are working the investigations on the one hand, you are increasing the prosecutorial capacity simultaneously so it does provide a mechanism to further expand that investigative and prosecutorial perspective. >> i share your support for the merit initiative and i hope we can do more amidst what is pretty gloomy news in terms of the -- how much geography in mexico the cartels control, the level of violence in mexico that president obrador would be one of his top priorities. we've actually seen more people die of violence in mexico since 2007 than have died in the wars in afghanistan and iraq combined. i remember what happened after 9/11 when 3000 americans died in new york and washington, d.c. at the pentagon. we went to war against al qaeda
and t and t and the taliban. but 75,000 have died from overdose and this flood of heroin and methamphetamine coming across the border doesn't seem like our -- seems like our -- we've become desensitized to the outrage that that really represents and the threat it represents to our national security. so i know senator feinstein obviously coming from a border state has talked to me about working on something like central american plan. i know president obama under his administration had a plan to try to support the triangle of countries in central america. i know we need to figure out something more than just sending money. we need to find out what works and that is the reason why i mentioned plan colombia. i think there is a lot of interest. on the bright side, amidst a gloomy prospect in terms of central america and in large
parts of mexico, i was encouraged to see what the incoming administration and mexico -- i happen to be down there for the inauguration of president lopez obrador and i know secretary nielsen and others have been directly negotiating with the incoming administration on how to deal with the asylum issue. mexico, for the first time to my knowledge, has begun issuing work permits, offering asylum in mexico. of course many of these individuals want to be reunited with their family in the united states and so they are turning that down and saying i'll go to the united states. but the agreement to allow those claims to be processed while the applicants remain in mexico i think represents a major change in policy and perhaps will provide some level of deterrence to the efforts many may come from central america and across mexico and the united states. do you have an opinion on that or -- or chief, can you perhaps
provide color for what i tried to describe? >> no, certainly, senator, our relationship with mexico right now is dsh has been an outstanding relationship and considering all we're dealing with on our shared border it is critical going forward that we continue down that path with the relationship we have. our partners in mexico have been doing as much as they can with the limited resources they have as well and have been great partners. >> given our history with mexico. they're a little skeptical of the united states as you could imagine. we've taken a substantial piece of mexico and made it texas and other parts of the southwest and i agree with the characterization you and mr. chester have made that this has to be a shared responsibility. because i think trying to do this to our friends in mexico or for them will not be well received and so i'm actually encouraged by seeing this very modest step in terms of the
asylum -- the claims for asylum coming from central america and i'm hopeful that with the new administration we could develop those sorts of relationships and develop programs that we could work on together and would certainly welcome any input, insights and advice you might give us in doing that,senator durbin. >> thank you. chief provost, how important is the export of firearms and drug money from the united states to the mexican cartels to their continued existence? >> well, so certainly, senator durbin, the money as you mentioned earlier that is going back into mexico and into the hands of the cartels is of great concern for us as well as the weapons. we do run operations along the border routinely. we work -- we do bilateral operations with our partners along the mexican border and
outbound operations to do our best with the resources that we have to address the issue. >> let me be more specific. how frequently are vehicles traveling southbound across the border through ports of entry checked for illegally exported weapons. >> would have to defer to my partners in the field operation for the numbers on that. >> would you defer to them and let me know what they say. >> i appreciate that. is it a priority? >> it is a priority, sir. >> have you witnessed the seizure of weapons headed from the united states down to mexico? >> yes, i have. and my border patrol agents also assist with outbound operations on numerous occasions and we have seized weapons and we have seized money going south. >> you might have heard my earlier testimony about sea portals. are you familiar with that technology. >> yes. we utilize those in border patrol. >> pretty amazing. describe those to the committee. >> it is a nonintrusive technology that supports our ability to inspect vehicles and
cargo that are coming through both the parts of entry and at our check points. >> it is like an x-ray or scanning device, as i understand it. >> yes, sir. >> nonintrusive. >> nonintrusive, sir. >> what do you learn from the use of that technology. >> that technology has helped us in seizure, both at the port of entry at our check points. and the technology is one capability that we -- or one resource that we utilize in our tool kit to support our efforts as we do our best to address the issue of all of the narcotics coming across the border. >> are you troubled about the fact that fewer than one in five vehicles are subject to that sort of scanning as they head north? >> i can't speak to the exact numbers, sir, that are scanned at our port of entry. i would take that as a -- get back with my partners in office of field operations. i do know they have -- they continue to expand the amount of technology that they are deploying at the port of entry and continue to request more of
that technology. >> and my guess is you defer to your field people again, if they could tell us their numbers, we have 18% of vehicles searched by this nonintrusive scanning device and a request from at least mr. maco lean yesterday was the highest priority and my guess is vehicles headed southbound, even fewer are scanned for weapons heading from the united states down to the mexican cartels and i would like you to be able to produce, if you can, information on sea portals being used for those exporting weapons and contraband from the united states to the cartels. >> yeah, i will take that as a get-back. >> and mr. knierim, am i pronouncing your name correctly. >> yes, sir. >> you had some testimony that you said in your testimony seizures of smuggled bulk cash decreased from $437 million in
2016, to $193 million in 2017. that means the smuggled bulk cash which we assume is somehow associated with drug trafficking decreased by 56%. you also say that the gross amount of bulk cash seized has steadily decreased since 2010. to what do you attribute this decrease and is it possible that it is a sign that the cartels have found more sophisticated way to transfer their laundered money. >> i think one thing i would like to highlight is the significant efforts that are being undertaken in order to investigate money laundering and the transfer of illicit proceeds. there are many different tactics and techniques that the cartels use and we likewise are available to utilize several investigative tools. i think there are obviously a the love of efforts made to
continue to identify the bulk currency being moved south. we also recognize that there are additional technologies in virtual currency being implemented by some of the trafficking organizations in particular as it is going -- >> the point i want to get to is the one i opened up with. what i just described, scanning these vehicles as they come into the united states, 18% are being scanned, scanning the vehicles that are headed south from the united states with weapons, contraband and money, having the means to deal with the technology by which they are now transferring this laundered drug money back into the cartels to make the next round of narcotics and to strengthen themselves has nothing to do with a wall. nothing to do with a wall. sign me up for more money to address the things that i've just described to you. don't sign me up for a $5 billion wall that was supposed to be paid for by mexico. and if i could ask one last
question, is that okay. >> senator durbin -- >> you signed me up. >> if i could address that last question as far as the new techniques. while tco continue to use bulk cash smuggling and utilizing funnel accounts, correspondent banking and other financial fraud and trade-based money laundering, they are utilizing stored value cards and there has been a significant increase in money laundering using cryptocurrency related financial investigations. we've more than doubled our seizure since last year. we also have had -- seen a lot of chinese tcos that are obtaining financial contracts to launder narcotics proceeds from mexican tcos and their traditional methods such as money pickups and then structuring through casinos and banks and wires. and of concern to us chinese counter fitted foreign documents shipped in bulk to mexico and provided to tcos to create
financial accounts or to register businesses. which makes it more difficult to see true benefit ownership. >> you're telling me the sophistication of the movement of this money goes beyond bulk cash. >> absolutely. >> and they are smart enough to know this isn't working very well. >> absolutely. >> we have to be just as smart. with the right people and the right technology. the last point i'll make and thank you mr. chairman for your willingness to let me say a word here. when i went to that postal facility that cbf facility at o'hare. those are good people. they are doing the best they could. you wouldn't believe all of the junk that comes through the mail into the united states and a lot of it is just trash and junk. but some of it has to be carefully inspected because it contains narcotics and fentanyl and the rest. we need a better system and we need a lot more people. that is not a wall. it is putting in technology and personnel to effectively deal with the threats of the united states. and i think fentanyl is one of the most dangerous threats.
thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you. >> chief, let me start on the last point that my friend and colleague senator durbin made. are there some places along the border where a physical barrier makes sense as part of a system? >> yes, senator, there certainly are. >> and as i recall in 2006 congress passed on a bipartisan basis a security fence act which authorized 700 miles of fencing and that passed on a broad bipartisan basis. has most of that been constructed so far. >> yes, sir, the vast majority of it has been. >> so in some places physical barrier does make sense, just to make that point? >> yes. it does. and if i may. >> yes. >> well in relation to technology and personnel are definitely necessary as well. but one does not replace the other. we need the ability to impede and deny the technology helps us on the detection and our men and
women and the resources there support our efforts when it comes to having enough people to make the apprehension or make the seizure. i would like -- i would liken it to the ring door bell. the door bell is great technology, that ring door bell and the ability to be able to see somebody that comes up to steal a package off your porch but doesn't prevent them from stealing the package off of your porch. you need the impedence and denial and that is what a barrier brings for us. and then you need the law enforcement personnel as you have both stated to make the arrest or to make the seizure. >> thank you for that. so i just want people to understand. i think every one of us are -- have some sympathy and certainly empathize with people who are experiencing violence or lack of economic opportunity, jobs in their home countries. and who want a better life.
that is just the human condition. but are the same people, the same narco traffickers and the same human traffickers and the people that facilitate the transit of migrants from central america through mexico into the united states, are they the same ones that are importing heroin and methamphetamine in the united states? >> the cartels own the plazas and run the areas along the entire border. and they may not always be the ones that are moving them through, however the alien smuggling organizations have to pay a fee to move people through those areas. so they work hand in hand with each other. and if i may just address the fact that, senator, you mentioned it before, the very dynamic situation when it comes to the people. i've said this before and i'll say it again, our men and women
do not check their humanity at the door. they have a very tough job to do. very tough mission dealing with both the humanitarian and the law enforcement mission and i'm very proud of what they do. >> well we thank you for saying that. i think you speak for all of us. but the point i want to make is that the same transnational criminal organizations that traffic in drugs, traffic in women and children for sex slavery are the same ones that move the migrants across the border from central america. >> they have involvement in the movement of the migrants, yes, sir. >> and it is all about the money. >> it is. >> it is their business model? >> it is. and as i stated in my opening statement, unfortunately they do not treat the migrants, the people, any different than they do the drugs or the money. >> and to senator durbin's point, the same technology that the commissioner talked about yesterday that you were
discussing that could identify the movement of people, drugs and other contraband coming north, if there was sufficient numbers of them and we had the infrastructure in place that would allow it, that could also scan vehicles heading south containing bulk cash and weapons, is that correct. >> yes. there is the potential to use it in that. >> as i understand it, the priority is on traffic coming north because we're talking about the drugs again and the other contraband and illegal immigration and so there hasn't been deployed the sort of resources in terms of man power or technology for traffic heading south. >> my colleagues specifically at the pores of entry, my colleagues as you both know have a very difficult mission in that they have a law enforcement mission but they also have a mission to facilitate lawful travel and trade.
and they focus their resources of course on inbound, however they do deploy as much as they can to outbound operations as well. >> but they have to have priorities given limited resources. >> yes, senator. >> and you've answered this at another hearing and another time but i want to reiterate this. the caravans of migrants that are showing up at san ysidro bridge and tijuana and showing up every day in what i call a mini caravan, roughly 400,000 people detained at the southwestern border in fiscal year 2017, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and family units, do the cartels use them as a strategic diversion so that they could then tie up border patrol and other law enforcement authorities and then use that gap to exploit the importation of illegal drugs in the united states? >> yes, senator, that is a tactic that they have used over
the years. and certainly with the influx that we're having in regard to this humanitarian issue, they certainly use that as a diversion for us as my men and women are spending a large majority of their time dealing with the humanitarian effort, it takes them away from the border security mission and the cartels and the tcos know that and they use it to their advantage. >> miss ayala, my final question, senator durbin is discussing how create -- and you were discussing how creative the cartels have gotten when it comes to money laundering and it is not just bulk cash coxing across the southwestern border through other entities. is it possible for the cartels and other criminal organizations simply to wire money back to mexico and central america because without identifying who
is sending it? in other words are there other tools or authorities that our law enforcement agencies need in order to stop that and is that a problem? the reason i ask is because i know tens of billions of dollars of remittances are sent each year from the united states back to the home countries of people who come to the united states and i just want to ask you whether that is a vulnerability in terms of creative money laundering or wiring money back to the home country. >> i think one of the biggest vulnerabilities as far as money laundering is concerned is correspondent banking and some of the rules and regulations that we have as far as the depositing money in the name of a bank account or bank or instead of the name of a business which is what is happening in my high-profile cases we're working. the trade-based money laundering, having the tools to really work on commercial fraud and making that a priority as much of the money that is laundered is laundered through a
legitimate trade. they're involved in cryptocurrency as we talked about and some of the lack of transparency and beneficial ownership as far as corporations makes it difficult for us to s . >> i think capacity building overseas and building their capacity for financial investigative efforts and their ability to engage in asset forfeiture would be, give us the biggest bang for our buck. >> thank you very much. some food for thought for further action. excuse the first panel and go vote and come back and take up the second panel. we'll be in adjournment.
the best laid plans sometimes go awry because of the voting schedule. my pleasure to introduce the witnesses for the second panel. the first is the honorable earl a. wayne. ambassador wayne is a public policy fellow and the woodrow wilson international center for scholars. part of this position, had a distinguished career with the state department and a career ambassador. the most senior u.s. diplomatic rank you can achieve. ambassador wayne previously served as ambassador to mexico, september 2011 to july 2015. september u.s. ambassador of afghanistan from 2009 to 2011 and argenticgentinaargentina. ambassador wayne recognized for leadersh
leadership. ambassador nor iega, assistant secretary of state with the affairs and u.s. ambassador to the organization of american states. from 2001 to 2003. while at the oas, he worked with hemispheric leaders to strengthen democracy, advance human rights, foster economic integration and promote peace and security throughout the western hemisphere. ambassador nor ya ienoriega wit. first witness today, i'll try to give it my best. currently adjunct professor at george washington university from 2002 to 2006.
she served as a state department director of counterterrorism with the coordinator for counterterrorism in washington, dc. the professor is a member of the council on foreign relations, the international institute for strategic studies and women in international security. the fourth witness is chief chris magnus. the chief is chief of police for the tucson police department, a position he's held since january 2016. chief magnus has served in many law enforcement capacities during his long career during service in lansing, michigan, fargo, north dakota, and richmond, california. chief mangus, working with the civil rights division and the cops office on policing issues in various cities around the country. welcome, chief. our final witness is dr. andrew salie. president of the migration
policy institute, a position in early 2017 after serving as executive vice president of the woodrow wilson international center for scholars. a respected scholar and analyst of mexico and u.s. mexico relations and a frequent commentator in the media. he's written and edited a number of books and policy reports on the u.s./mexico relationship and mexican and latin american politics. thanks all of you for adwrgreei with us here today. ambassador wayne, let me start with you, please. any opening statement you care to make. >> the red button, please. >> there we go. thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you and ranking member senator durbin for your initial comments. you made a lot of the most essential observations that i was going to make, so i'll try not to repeat them.
but you pointed out how both the u.s. and mexico society suffer from this cross border illegal trade that's going on. the importance of making this a high priority. we've made a lot of progress over the last ten years, but there's much more to do. mexico's new president, andres manuel is beginning the six year term with a large mandate controlling both houses of congress and wants to transform his country. he's made clear a number of times that he wants to find ways to cooperate with the united states. so both governments should build on what's been working so far while they explore new ways to make that cooperation better. we should definitely avoid what happened six years ago when there was about a year of freeze in the cooperation between the two governments during the last presidential transition. teams from both sides should get
together, review very thoroughly what's going on right now, what makes sense to continue and also, try to identify new priorities, especially that mesh with the public security strategy that amlo put forward in recent weeks. one thing we should try very hard to do is keep going after that business model of the groups. in 2017, the two governments agreed to do that. but we didn't get to go forward with that program very effectively. we should try and do so now. we have to keep working on better inner agency coordination between the two sides and within each government at the same time. we should also, i think, i very much agree with the comments of taking additional steps to manage the risks that are out there including using this new technology that is available. and by using the program, we can make it available on both sides of the border. so we're really looking at all
the entry and exit points and we can share that data and analyze it with new i.t. software to be even more effective in tracking what's going across our borders. we should also look seriously at how we can support elements of this new public security policy. there are a number of parts of this 8 pillar approach that is presented that i think we can effectively support and work with them in developing. all of this effort needs additional funding, including additional merida funding. i think that would be well used and i agree with the idea of taking up the offer to develop a regional approach to this program that deals with causes as well as effects and takes that long term and multi-layered approach to deal with the problems of migration and crime.
congress has a vital role to play in this process in making sure this reinvigorated cooperation gets off to a good start and that we have sufficiently funded plans to take it forward. over the past ten years, bilateral cooperation has been under the umbrella of the merida initiative between mexico and the united states. that initiative brought order, it brought more coordination and more funds to u.s. assistance. it helped build closer cooperation between law enforcement, justice, diplomatic, security, border and intelligence officials on both sides and a greatly improved capacity through the assistance programs that went forward. but more progress is needed but i think what's important to understand is that all the people working on this came to accept that dealing with these problems are a shared responsibility. that was not the case ten years ago.
there was a lot of finger pointing. right now, there's a great consensus that the way to really solve these problems is working together. we should make sure we can maintain that approach. as you and others noted, senator, the opioid crisis has pressed us to realize how important this is. as i mentioned in 2017, we got an agreement with the mexicans on a new set of intense efforts to look at that whole value chain from production through financing at the very end and tried to cut it off at all angles. sadly, we were not able to take that forward and at least part of it was because it was a popular backlash in mexico against the criticisms of mexico and a number of the harsh actions on the border. i hope we can now take this opportunity to move forward and build that cooperation. within mexico since 2014 as mentioned, criminal groups have
spread more widely their violent activities across mexico and diversify the crimes they are committing in mexico. very sadly, homicides reached a new record. violent homicides in 2019 a8 an looks like another record will be set for this year. not surprisingly, a prime driver in electing was insecurity. and not surprisingly, one of the first plans he's now presented is this 8 pillar approach. it's not exactly overlap with our priorities, but there is a significant area where we could work together between the two governments. he has taken in his eight pillars, a look at preventative as well as enforcement issues, looking at causes as well as effects. if you would like to later, i could talk a little bit about the eight pillars but i won't go through them all now but i'll just mention that perhaps one of
the most controversial parts of it is announcing the restructuring in public securities, created a new public security ministry which mexico did have before, but then he created a national guard which will be a military service or militarized service under the secretary of defense. so there are a lot of questions about that that still need to be explored and debated in mexico. at the same time, popular expectations are very high. they welcome a fresh approach. so we need to work with the mexican government and see how we can mesh these objectives together. merida, as you mentioned, has been working for the past ten years under its four main pillars. these pillars have been very flexible. they've allowed us to cover a wide range of different programs and to evolve priorities to reflect changes in the governments on both sides of the borders as we're working this through.
in my written testimony, i go through some 19 areas where i think there are good programs under way that would sync very well by lopez. >> let me ask, we were asking people to keep to the five minutes opening and hear what you have to say. follow up with some questions and then proceed to ambassador noriega. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman and senator durbin for the opportunity to discuss what's at stake in the u.s./mexico relationship. mexican organized crime has grown as a threat in the last 20 years. worse yet, it's part of a dangerous sophisticated global crime network right on our doorstep. mexico's new president won a clear mandate to fight corruption. however, his thoughts of subduing narco-violence with an amnesty and poverty programs are
not reassuring. this matters because 90% cocaine and heroin transits mexico. sustaining a public health and criminal justice crisis that costs us $200 billion. the mexican people complain justifiably about u.s. demand for drugs, which sustains criminals who sew terror, death and instability. we must face this threat as partners because neither government can co-exist with lawless groups that attack our people with impunity. mr. chairman, i have worked against this threat for about two decades and mostly in the u.s. congress, congressional staff. and i believe this crisis is worse than ever in the supply and the drugs, the depth, breadth and wealth of the networks that deliver them and the inability or unwillingness in certain cases to attack them effectively. since 2013, the production of heroin in mexico has tripled.
the supply of fentanyl, 30 times to 50 times more important, columbia coca cultivation and it's tripled. reaching record highs and filling the mexican traffickers. deadly gangs from central america vertically integrated into every american city is expanding drug smuggling right to our border. making matters worse, mexican organized crime is part of a global criminal network with two trillion dollars in annual income. that's the equivalent of mexi mexico's gdp. carrying that asymmetrical threat right to the doorstep. every day, this criminal network does whatever it takes to optimize the supply chain of illicit drugs here to the market in the united states. here's how we dropped the ball in my opinion the last ten years. the anti-drug alliance in south
america that was really the work of george herbert walker bush which he helped pull together has now fallen apart. we stood by as the last mexican president failed to devise a strategy against the nar co-traffickeco co traffickers and left bolivia, ecuador, nicaragua. hijacked countries and switched sides in the war on drugs. a narco state throughout the americas and in europe. end in mexico. even in columbia, invested $10 billion in aid and had trusted partners left a peace deal to produce an explosion of cocaine and arms smugglers thriving in
venezuela under the protection of the regime. china and russia provided intelligence support, weapons and banking ties that have bet criminal regimes and profitable schemes. in this dangerous climate, we need mexico to do more but the new president's talk of fighting drugs with amnesty or social sounds like a recipe for surrender. here's what we can do about it. during the transition, we have to lock in the mutually beneficial cooperation that exists today. the president of the united states should designate an ambassador to mexico whose judgment and loyalty he trusts to remain a candid dialogue on sensitive issues and encourage the mexican president to fulfill the mandate by imposing the rule of law and overhauling mexico's police and criminal justice system. congress, our congress, should quickly approve, in my opinion, the u.s./mexico/canada agreement to secure markets in trade ties to produce jobs for the united
states. on the international front, we should work closely with the new government of brazil to restore the regional anti-drug alliance. we must increase asymmetrical measures to attack transnational organized crime threat. more investigators, more prosecutors, more intelligence and legal authorities are needed to sanction and punish kingpins and choke off cash to the criminal operations. we should work with our neighbors to confront the narco state with the criminal network. we should help, continue to help columbia eradicate coca and secure the border in venezuela but finally, investigate, expose and counter activities by cuba, russia and china abetting other criminal activity in the americas. we have a lot of work to do obviously. thank you very much for your attention. >> thank you. >> thank you, chairman, and ranking member durbin for the
opportunity to appear before you today to testify on the threats posed by mexican tcos to the national security and u.s. and mexican efforts to cartel them. the illicit. kidnapping, extortion and money laundering. they thrive in corruption and impunity in mexico and use violence and the threat of violence in power to enrich themselves. they've also capitalized sadly on america's voracious appetite for drugs, methamphetamines. the national by heroin and fentanyl mostly from mexico significantly impacting the public health, economy and national security of the united states. in 2017, the national security strategy recognized transnational organized crime as a threat to u.s. threats both at home and abroad. the need to secure our borders and pursue transnational threats to the source. the u.s. and mexico enjoy one of
the most extensive bilateral military and law enforcement relationships in the world that illustrates the concepts of defense in depth, which means working with our international partners. through the 2008, the merida initiative, u.s. helped to build the mexican authorities through more effective poppy eradication, monitoring, and anti-corruption programs. for over a decade, the mexican military has been deployed in the streets of mexico in law enforcement missions but the violence continues and actually escalated. mexico had a record number to complement ambassador wayne's testimony. 31,174 homicides in 2017 which represents a 27% increase compared to 2016 and we anticipate the year's end to actually reflect even higher numbers. mexican president andres manuel lopez amlo assumed office on december 1st and pledged to end
the violence plaguing mexico. these two priorities reflected in the national plan for peace and security, 2018 to 2024. the new plan intends to reform mexican security services by creating a national guard to address crime and violence head on. it's considering granting amnesty to low level drug traffickers and legalizing marijuana and possibly poppy cultivating. this is quite divergent from previous mexican government policies and from u.s. law enforcement and u.s. narcotics interests. it's too early to tell if and how bilateral cooperation on poppy eradication, operations and cartels consider under amlo. regarding the crisis, u.s. and mexico are trying to address the humanitarian crisis at the border and are considering requiring asylum seekers to stay in mexico as they get processed through the u.s. court system. in the last 24 hours, mexico has publicized their plan to create
a martial plan that would extend about 3 billion over the next five years in order to complement the assistance that the u.s. and other countries are granting to the northern triangle and we're looking forward to hear details about what that would consist of with the root causes of the migration. working to protect countries from drugs, arms, human trafficking, money laundering and corruption. one area where they share interests is regard to fighting corruption and money laundering that empower these cartels. amlo's national plan with a proposal to prevent and combat money laundering with crime and corruption. estimates 20 billion to $30 billion a year could be recovered or seized. not only efforts to fight corruption but the mexican cartels. with the following five recommendations. number one, exploit financial intelligence and law enforcement operations against the cartels. number two, aggressively pursue
the top cartel financiers since their main objective is to maximize profits and they're difficult to replace. number three, encourage, and improve coordination with prosecutors, the financial intelligence unit and law enforcement agencies in order to achieve more money laundering convictions and actually to deter criminal activity. number four, advocate for the swift passage of non-conviction based forfture before mexico's congress as well as beneficial ownership disclosures and training and tech assistance for agencies with better inner agency with mexico but most importantly, international cooperation with sharing. in conclusion, mexican cartels pose serious threats to the public health, prosperity and national security of the u.s. and mexico. the two countries must identify common interests, build trust and collaborate across the security and narcotics, trade
and governess portfolios and enhance programs under way to directly counter the mexican cartels. thank you for your attention. i look forward to your questions. >> thanks, professor. chief magnus. >> chairman, ranking member durbin. thank you for the opportunity to testify before you. i'm the chief police for tucson, arizona. i've been in policing for 20 years. 20 as a chief. always made it a priority to strengthen police community ties. so i like to approach this discussion from a slightly different angle than the other panelists today. working in a large diverse city located near the mexican border, i understand the need for border security. i've seen how the transnational criminal organizations bringing drugs into the u.s. pray ey on immigrants to reach profits. no simple solution for these problems. improving border security and achieving community safety is
going to require cooperation and trust between all levels of law enforcement, but just as critically between immigrant communities and the local police. the tucson police department teams up with the feds to go after drug cartels, human and gun traffickers and money launderers. this cooperation is essential to combat these threats but at the same time, grant funding from the federal government serves as a critical resource to keep our community safer. now, earlier this year, the tucson police department partnered with atf and hsi to arrest 53 wanted violent and sex offenders. we also participated in an operation that included hsi and the dea to target a heroin trafficking ring. in these instances and many others, we've seen the benefit of partnering with each other. many of my colleagues and i believe border security solutions must be strategic to
address serious threats. according to recent stats from the cbp, more than 80% of hard drugs intercepted along the border are seized at ports of entry. directing federal resources into improving stats would be far more effective in halting the movement of guns and drugs across the border and simply constructing new barriers between these ports. tucson is the sixth, we're in the sixth largest county in the united states. our republican sheriff, who has the responsibility for policing 125 border miles told lawmakers they'd be better off giving a fraction of the billions it would take to build the wall to law enforcement. he said, i think it's kind of a medieval solution to a modern problem and many of my colleagues and i agree with him. demand for drugs in the u.s. drives trafficking leading cartels to seek profits through victimizing the public on both sides of the border.
we must work more diligently towards reducing the demand for drugs through the use of effective treatment programs, doing this will cut off the life blood of these criminal organizations that take advantage of those struggling with addiction. facing a growing number of opioid deaths in tucson, we launched a program to prioritize drug treatment over incarceration. we now allow officers to use discretion with small amounts of narcotics into treatment instead of jail. suspects caught selling drugs or those with most felony warrants are obviously ineligible. this has broad public support and lower our jail population while at the same time, getting addicts the treatment they need. i believe local police best serve our communities by leaving the enforcement of immigration laws to the federal government. immigration enforcement irresponsibly diverts limited
resources that we critically need to keep our communities safe. now, tucson takes pride in being welcoming to all. we're not a sanctuary city, but we do work to maintain community confidence and trust in law enforcement. we want victims and witnesses no matter their immigration status to seek our help and cooperate with us to stop dangerous criminals. recently, policing has become harder in many of our neighborhoo neighborhoods. the climate resulting from the current rhetoric and crackdown on immigrants undermines trust and poses major challenges to police officers. aggressive federal enforcement including courthouse arrests and other high profile operations terrify not only the undocumented but their american-born family, friends and coworkers. as a result, an already marginalized community is less inclined to turn to us, making it much harder to apprehend criminals and of course, when crimes go unreported and unsolved, the cartels go
unchecked and increase their power. current efforts to force local police to take on federal immigration enforcement responsibilities only worsen this dynamic. in addition, efforts to strip federal grant funding from localities deemed to be uncooperative, leave cities with fewer resources and that leads to increases in crime. the members of this committee have the ability to set a new standard in law enforcement. one that creates a balanced approach to public safety that not only preserves cooperation between local law enforcement and the feds but also between local police and immigrant communities. i encourage you to do so, working together, i have no doubt that we can curb drug demand, combat the cartels and make our communities safer. thank you very much. >> thank you, chief. dr. salee. >> thank you, chairman corden and ranking member durbin. the invitation to be here, great honor to be with you. i was asked to be at the links
between the migrational, which is complex and to look at what the current moment of change with the government of mexico might be in terms of what we can do to manage the border and migration together. so let me say in terms of links that exist, transnational crime activity, the biggest link with organized crime and migration is the way we've seen transnational crime with mexico and central america is at the base of the violence people experience in their daily lives. not necessarily preyed on by drug trafficking organizations but the gangs and the smaller thuggish groups who prey on local communities get their resources, weapons and legitimacy above all with the connections to the transnational crime organizations. for the most part, the organizations are different from the center earlier and the transnational crimes and some cases where they have moved in to migrant smuggling but generally, separate lines of business but you do see the migrant smuggling organizations to have to pay for access to
smuggling points and particularly to the border, be able to get people through and you have seen an increasing predatory forms of migrant smuggling as a result of some of these relationships as well. but these are utilitarian situation and varied relationships with the migrant smugglers and the tcos. the tco and migrant smugglers, they use different crossing routes. generally speaking, the highest value happens at ports refuse ent of entry. methamphetamines are crossing over ports of entry, ports of entry, 80% to 90%. marijuana does cross between ports of entry. migrant smugglers between ports of entry as well but marijuana is going down significantly. between ports of entry. so different smuggling routes. we have a strategic moment. i think this is said by everyone on the panel one way or another, the inauguration of mexico and
there for the inauguration, as a matter of fact, a chance to restart the bilateral agenda on organized crime and strategic options for migration flows and we've heard, mexico is going through a moment where their interests are converging somewhat in ours in different ways than were true before. no longer a sender of migrants, unauthorized migrants. most mexicans who come to the united states are through legal paths. as of november, we heard from commissioner, there were more guatemalans who were apprehended than mexicans. first time that's happened. the number of mexicans keeps going down. increasing a receiving country of mai graigrants and because o, similar questions they're asking about their migration system, not the same and we shouldn't confuse it by thinking they necessarily want to do the same hinges things but similar issues with their immigration policy.
the new government put four ideas of things they want to do. the first sen hais enhancing th asylum system. three years ago, and close to 30,000. ten time increase. completely overburdened. it sounds familiar, right? like our asylum. huge. but this is monumental. they'll try to beef this up and obviously something we want to help with and work with them and uhcr. to our advantage, more people want to apply for asylum in mexico and some evidence people stay in mexico as well. second, talking about employment based visa for americans to take people from central america to put them where there's labor shortages in mexico. this is a big labor undertaking. it's one thing to say they want to do this and do it in a way that doesn't compete with mexican workers or do it with a labor program that includes mexicans as well as central americans in creating a visa. they haven't done this before but an area where we have some expertise in doing as well and
something that obviously would create a magnet for people to stay in mexico. thi third, they talked about the migration institute and modernizing the border control and migration enforcement. so that they both respect human rights and the high standards of integrity, not always happened in the past, while also channelling people into legal channels and having real enforcement teeth. and finally, they've talked about what he said in central america. there's some opportunities for us as well to think about our asylum system. we have more than a border crisis and asylum cry sise whis colleague who ran ins under both democratic and republican administrations has proposed a rule change to allow asylum officers to make the first decisions, would speed up acsylm processes. fair and timely in how we do this and don't need to narrow but timely in how we grant it to both allow people to be removed to qualify quickly as well as
allowing people who do qualify and i'm over time, let me say quickly. there's a lot we can do with thinking about in country prostziprost processing in mexico. in central america. we can think about going after the worst migrant smugglers who abuse migrants through extortion and kidnapping. good for human rights and enforcement but this is the moment to fix our asylum system but create discussions with our neighbors about how we do this together. so thank you. >> thank you very much. a lot to work with based on the testimony we've heard so far. let me start with you, ambassador noriega. you've had to experience working on the hill and u.s. government, others have as well, but i'm trying to figure out what's the best place to start coming up with a plan? again, i guess i'm fixated on
playing columbia because it's the one successful model, although, we've got a country of $125 million or so people in mexico and obviously, countries that have a lot of problems, even bigger problems in central america but i've talked to senator feinstein about some plan in central america but my suggestion to her is not let's just make it narrow there but make it regional but i'd be interested in your comments, ambassador wayne in terms of how we approach this. let me preface that by saying until recently, my perception was that mexico regarded illegal immigration in the united states as our problem, not their problem. and in fact, they gave transit visas as long as people didn't stay in mexico. they could just come on through. same thing with drugs. they viewed that as our problem, based on demand and not their problem. although i don't know how you view it that way when you see the toll of violent deaths
occurring there, which as the professor said, are continuing to increase. could you maybe start, professor noriega, ambassador wayne, first talk about how to conceptualize the framework so we're not just dealing with little one-off issues. how could we make this a comprehensive plan? should it emanate from the executive branch or from the legislative branch? >> well, thank you very much, senator. i was working for senator helms when plan columbia passed but i started working on that under ben gailman, the chairman of the house international relations committee from new york and for i worked for four years and really dug in on these issues. he's contributed as quite a priority and then when i came over to the senate side, i was one of the people that everybody trusted in the room among the staff because i worked for both
sides. and it was a hill initiative, a congressional initiative. you had folks like dennis and paul coverdell, senator dodd participated and senator helms as well and it was very much folks like people sitting behind you who dug in on these issues and worked on them for a long time, establishing relationships with people and who identified folks in columbia that we could work with and started sort of a tactical approach and then the folks in the state department responded. pete ramiro took the ball and ran with this and they helped the colombians come up with an answer to the question, how do we have a response?
so it was really both engaged but it was congress really pushing and insisting that we go with real money. as what one of the chairmen of the time makes no small plans. challenged the state department to come back with an aggressive plan and frankly, the congress increased the amounts and engaged. with central america, there is a plan that's on the table, really, and actually been implemented. it was conceived with the help of the inter-american development bank, and they put together a very comprehensive approach that the central american companies are matching with their own resources and so that's out there on the table. i would suggest that, as you look at this problem, it's the global threat, the organized
crime which, by the way, drug trafficking only accounts for 40% of the $2.2 trillion income. really has us overwhelmed and various actors have helped disintegrate institutions in central america. we palszssed the central americ free trade agreement. economic partners and now they're basket cases again because their political systems, their institutions, overwhelmed by narco traffickers. so we have to use asymmetrical tools, it's not all about finding the cocaine and the heroin and the marijuana, find the lieutenant colonel with $200 million in his bank account and start asking questions. sort of the asymmetrical sanctions used by venezuela, a
very aggressive way by leading secretary over there and start to kind of with these rifle s s shots, pick up the kingpins so people have a fighting chance. i talked too long, i'm sure. >> i was hoping you would make it more narrow and then you made it global but i appreciate that, i understand what you were saying. >> excellent points. >> ambassador wayne? >> i think, of course, my career of 40 years, being the executive, what i've seen that has worked very well is to get in and really sit with the other governments and work nitty-gritty on the details but it's been wonderful to have that conceptual support when there has been the case from congress to help push this along and that's often been the case. sometimes, of course, it's been in the administration, sometimes in congress but if you can get both talking on the conceptual agreement and then work through the specifics with a partner
government or partner governments, that really does make a difference and what we have, the big change now is the arrival of the new government in mexico. and while there are questions as roger pointed out, there's an opening to try to find a way to work with this on these issues and there's a big conceptual idea that the united states, even canada, central america and mexico can work together and we can tackle at the same time migration and crime and job creation in these places, if we talk about it and work at it using a bunch of different tools and we do have that range of tools. that's going to take a lot of hard specific work, including with the inter-american development bank because they did develop a good plan for central america but this is now different and roger is exactly right. in some places, organized crime is just too powerful. you have to target them but you have to know each of the places,
look at it and use your tools in different ways and if we could get this conceptual agreement, get support for it, get funding for it and get everybody committed, i think over a number of years, we could make a big difference on all these problems, using a multi-layered approach. just like in migration, you've got to look at the root causes and you have to look at when they get to southern mexico, what happens to them, are there other options and how are they treated and being abused by the criminal groups going up, can we get rid of that? thus, do we reduce the problem before it gets to our border, then we make some of our own changes and asylum procedures an oth d other things to be effective at our border? it's a whole layered approach to this and takes intellectual authorship and support in congress as well as the administration. i think we have that opportunity though. >> senator durbin?
>> chief magnus, i looked at your resume. lansing michigan, fargo north dakota, richmond, california, tucson, arizona. quite a tour of this country and now you're on the border city, responsibility, and what i hear from you is what i hear from eddie johnson in chicago about how important it is for effective policework to have the trust of the community. and i couldn't agree with you more that if we tried to put you into a federal role enforcing immigration, i don't think it's going to make it any easier. i think it will make it more complicated for you. have you had the cooperation of your hispanic community in tucson whit comen it comes to d with drug issues we've talked about? >> senator, we certainly have and one of the biggest reasons for that is this focus on relational policing or really community policing where we
understand that we have to have that relationship with the entire community. tucson is about 50% hispanic and many of the residents of tucson are families who, they are immigrants and they have family, extended family in some cases who are undocumented, sometimes even living in the same household with them. these are all people that make up the fabric of our community and once we start, you know, tearing at that fabric in terms of creating a climate of fear where people are simply unwilling to talk to the police or even talk to their neighbors, sometimes not even willing to come out of the house because they're so afraid, all we do is we lower the level of safety for every resident of the city. so i think the climate we set is incredibly important for safety and that means that we leave the
civil immigration enforcement duties to our federal partners. we partner with them when appropriate on larger challenges like drug cartels, the human trafficking, some of the other things, but on a day-to-day level, we have to be able to do our own work. >> dr. selee, we've talked a lot about the mexican cartels and i'm just blown away by the notion that their volume of economic activity matches the gdp of mexico. puts it in stark perspective. we haven't talked about the structure and relationship with the drug gang in those three countries that are forcing so many people toward our border. guatemala, el salvador and honduras. what can you tell me about that? >> what we do know is that there is, in central america, you have both the drug gangs, the mexican transnational crime organization, call them mexican
but a lot are but usually transnational organizations. as it became harder to operate in mexico, they moved more of the operations into guatemala and honduras. some of the operations wiere there already and also began teaming up with smaller groups, right, very agile groups. ms-13, the two salvadoran gangs and you have some presence of those gang and a lot of local level gangs that worked for the cartels, the large transnational crime groups and those are the groups that are particularly dangerous. you see this in mexico as well, by the way. the largest crime groups often are less predatory and make their money and drugs. the the smaller groups are the ones that mix between servicing the large cartels, they make money there and get weapons there, but that's not necessarily always a full-time occupation and so they spend a lot of time doing things like extortion locally, kidnapping in
mexico more than central america. >> take a country like guatemala. to think there's more guatemalans showing up at our border than mexicans, that's relatively small country. there's a distance to be traveled and many of these are mothers of children who are making it up to our border. so just sounds like it's pure chaos and disorder in guatemala and a lot of fear. i can't imagine, it's just economic opportunity driving it. there has to be a climate down there that is fearful. >> i think there is a mixture of things. some people are leaving for economic reasons. there's areas of drought and crop shortage. some people are leaving for mixed motives. economic but also the turbulence around them and the violence around them and some people are leaving for really specific threats. i spent some time hanging out with four teenagers in the border on the mexican side of the border the other day who all were able to list very specific things and one young man brought up his facebook page as we sat
there. this was at a youth shelter in tijuana and literally just scrolled through his facebook page showing me everyone who had been killed. it was his news feed basically and saying, i went to school with this person, this is the mother of one of my neighbors, this is just one after another. and completely monotone, by the way. he wasn't trying to shock me. he was simply making the point that that's the way life is where he is and he received a very specific threat to his parents and simply decided never to go home again. if he didn't join the gang and said i left, i went to a friend's house and left the next morning and never even told my parents i was leaving. that was the story of all four of them in one way or another. these were the specific gangs and local crime groups. other people you talk to, it's land invasions. it's a lot of extortion payments that people at some point simply can't make the payment one month and they decide to, the month they can't make the payment, they need to leave because they will be killed otherwise or kids will be killed. >> this sounds like credible
fear. >> there's a lot of that. i mean, i would not say everyone is an asylum seeker, not everyone is fleeing because of violence. there are economic motives and try to begin to distinguish between people who need protection. we have a tendency to say, these are all gaming the system or people who need protection, there's a mixture in there but a large number of people are protection. we don't have to choose in the system. between being fair to people and having a deterrent. if we have a fair effective relatively expedited asylum system, not overly expedited. we have to give people due process but not where it is where people wait two or three years. we can make fair decisions quickly and be inclusive as possible of people that really fear going back, make sure we give them acsylum and let them stay. >> the aasylees has gone down
dramatically. >> we could think about the refugee program for the western hemisphere so they don't have to make the journey up to the border. >> we also had that program which the administration discontinued where minors could go to the embassy in their native country and make application for asylum. >> that's right. >> see whether or not they were approved and it was eliminated. >> it was eliminated. there's a real opportunity to build on what we learned from that. it's not easy doing it. i think it is, these things require some experimentation and it's something we could build on again. we have an experience that was somewhat successful in doing that and think with the government in how we do this in the south of mexico before people make the whole journey across. can we take people through the refugee process? the mexican government might have something to say about that but i think they're willing to talk about it if we are. >> thank you.
>> professor, i think you were the one talking about the level of violence in mexico. not getting better, getting worse. my understanding in one of my recent trips to mexico city is that essentially, if you commit a murder in mexico, you're almost guaranteed not to be prosecuted. they end up calling that impunity, i guess, sort of generic word but is it true that the law enforcement and judicial departments or branches of the mexican government are simply unable to bring people to any justice if they commit a murder in mexico? >> that's the problem you have with impunity and corruption. the average public has little faith in the police and judicial system. low levels of people who actually file reports and denounce is what they call it, let alone actually realize a conviction and as you know, through the merida initiative,
the u.s. has been helping the mexican government reform its judicial system and more importantly, change their prosecutorial method but central america, there's corruption and impunity, one category. the wealth that these illicit activities generate that feeds into the corruption, and then the third piece is the violence. what you're seeing is con ver gent gents. you have people migrating for fear of persecution or because their family was extorted and their relative didn't pay, it actually goes across not just the person who owed the money but the whole family as well as lack of economic opportunity. both ambassador noriega and wayne referred to something called alliance for prosperity, an actual plan to generate more
importantly, opportunities for job creation, investment. >> in central america. >> central america. so we actually have a lot of components, the bigger question is how to get the political will through the three, corruption is a huge challenge in the northern triangle. you've actually just seen the brother of the sitting president of honduras arrested for narcotics trafficking. the last government in guatemala, many of them were trained and sponsored by the u.s. also in jail for corruption charges. there's a bigger piece of governance which we haven't really talked about but this bigger question of how do you get the local populations to trust the governments that we're entrusting in terms of foreign assistance and having the political will to fight the transnational criminal organizations, whether they be local kbagangs who use the thre of violence to the larger movers of illicit trafficking whether it's through people or drugs? the other thing to call to attention is external actors
that are involved now. so i spent a lot of time looking at money laundering. the amount of money handled by chinese, tcos as well as chinese banks in order to circumvent sanctions as well as our kind of know your client regulations is a new conduit and i think you've seen the government of el salvador with the chinese regime is very troublesome and one of the things we try to figure out, a very useful time right now to reassess how we be the partner of choice and continue to be the bff, the best friends forever of central america as well as mexico at a very interesting juncture particularly as we see these countries look for different ways that the chinese are using predatory lending, and look at partners in the region that are actually trying to basically erode the influence that the u.s. has had through all the different portfolios.
military law enforcement, economic and also the cultural ties that we have. and this is a really crucial point that we have to figure out how to double down on our investment and it's not just about money but the political commitment and how to build those relationships with a new team under amlo and mexico because now they are really engaging. they're now understanding what it's like to be a recipient and deal with all of themigrants without the experience we've had in the u.s. and they don't have the level of ngos we have and the charitable tradition we have in the u.s. to handle and you see it every day with what's being streamed from tijuana. i think you were just down there. the physical capacity to handle these migrants is actually degrading their security but also from a public health point of view, which is disturbing for everyone involved. >> a couple of you have mentioned amlo's commitment to a national guard.
i assume that this is just the latest iteration of the attempt to try to deal with the corruption problem at the local and the state level. i think over the years, they've tried to make, federalize this, make it a national police, national law enforcement organization to deal with it that would be perhaps vetted and less susceptible to corruption. i assume that's the motivation for that. is that correct, ambassador wayne? >> i think it is. as you know, for the last, for this century, they've been struggling, pardon me, with the ability to really have a fully coordinated overall strategy that worked with all the different parts of their government working together. federal, state and local. they have not successfully done that under the last two presidents so they came up with this idea of a national guard because the least corrupted, not uncorrupted but the least
corrupted were the defense department entities. the army and the navy. >> i know there's a lot of ngos and others that object to the military base doing policework and i can understand that, but as you point out there, the ones that are most effective and least subject to corruption, but i guess you still have the basic problem at the local and state level of plato plomo, silver or lead, you can see the intimidation tactics that are used to undermine public authority and order in those countries. dr. selee, are you saying the migrant smugglers are not
transnational criminal organizations or somehow they're separate or? >> just that they're separate, the migrant smugglers tend to be different from the drug traffickers. >> you don't agree with those who say the cartels are essentially a commodity agnostic, whatever will make them money? >> no. i think drug traffickers for the most part, there have been attempts. we know the the toijuana cartel in. they were really on their heels when they were losing some of the drug business and the cartel at the time, they were losing some of the drug business moved into migrant smuggling to supplement but for the most part for them, drugs is a big successful business and they get a lot more out of being able to charge the right to cross without having to get in to the complexities of run a different business venture. i don't think it's a moral
question in any way. not that they wouldn't get into it, but a specialized business. slightly smaller groups. they're still larger. gone is the day when there's mom and pop smugglers, which used to, i1990s. i live near a father and son smuggling team at one point. that's gone. these are criminal enterprises now. but they are, for the most part, separate today than the larger drug organization os. if i can jump into the last question as well. you have seen some successes in parts of mexico where you have better policing and better ports in some areas. some cities are safer. you have vigilance of what government does. it's become a real matchwork. some places have gotten b worse and some have gotten better. there's a lot we can learn in terms of local law enforcement.
>> can you firm that basically the cartels control all the real estate that's contiguous to the u.s. border? i guess that's where they make you pay to cross. but my understanding and this is kind of a chilling number is that cartels and criminal organization os basically control more than a third of the country. even though it's 11th largest economy in the world, that doesn't really tell the story when the mexican government and the state government, local government can't even control large swaths of real estate in the country. >> it's interesting what control means. it started a business model where control meant really having a heavy handed control of lots of things moving around them. the contrasting model is the cartel, which is really all about trafficking drugs. and buying off what you need of the state. so if what you need in a certain area you need the chief of
police, with all due respect to my colleague here, if what you need is trafficking and seeing the low end, you need the chief of police. you go for the chief of police but don't worry about other businesses. you don't go for the superintendent of schools. they tried to control lots of things. it failed. and really degraded them. there are pieces left, but there's no big organization anymore. for the most part, mexican organizations, the largest ones are about trafficking drugs. some of the smaller ones, and in parts of the country, they do try to exercise if you go to parts, there are groups that really try to control more than just drug trafficking. but i say that because when a third of the country has active cartels, but it means something different in a city like monterey, where you can live your life daily and never notice the cartels than if you live in a town where it would be hard to run a small business without
paying a tax. >> when people refer to this controlling territory. if you want to challenge another cartel, blood is expensive. so they generally respect the right to move material and within certain geographical areas. with respect to a couple things, the corruption issue, when the president took this on, what he encountered was there was so much corruption at the state and local level where people not only defied the federal
government when he was trying to move against certain targets, the local and state leaders and he would replace them and that sort of thing. but it's really hard to get traction with this kind of top down approach. mexico needs cultural change in terms of corruption. and accountability and transp n transparency is and it's extraordinarily complicated and time consuming process, but there has to be a certain change in expectations from the top down. i think they could do that, quite frankly. he has a mandate to do precisely that. but it requires a criminal justice reform, penitentiary reform, professionalization of the police, only a handful of the 31 states has the capacity to even a professional track for
policing. so as a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, but it really requires political will. it's almost an outsider in certain respects, but the insider and others, but he's sort of a maverick. so perhaps he can challenge the structural construction that's existed in mexico for many, many years and which has blocked progress in terms of economic advancement and now blocked simple application of the rule of law and the protection of citizens and perhaps can change that and transform that model. >> i agree that it locks like he's a unique political figure. he seems to have a mandate to deal with the corruption and the violence. whether he can actually do that or not, i don't know. that's where i think we can try to find a way to share that challenge because it affects
them and us and central america too. so we're trying to get our head all around that and take advantage of the moment and the opportunity this may provide. my um presentation of the president's speech, he gave it as inaugural is he raised expectations sky high. and ordinarily you try to tamp down expectations and exceed those low expectations, in my experience. but he set expectations very high. so it's going to be interesting to see. we have a lot of skin in the game oufrss here in the united states in terms of how that turns out. with we need to figure a whey to work with our counterparts at the legislative and executive branch level and help them in all the ways they detail. thank you all for spend iing yo time here and sharing your expart tees with us.
this hearing is now adjourned. what we'll do is i will add by way of footnote there may be additional written questions. ien wouldn't expect a lot, but we'll go ahead and give everybody a chance if they have additional areas they want to inquire about and then we'll close out the record in about ten days or two weeks time. so thank you very much.
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