Homeland Security Statements

Confronting the Drug Cartels

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Washington, November 19, 2009 | Stefani Zimmerman (202-225-4601) | comments

Statement by, Congressman Hal Rogers

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our distinguished guests.

For Secretaries Silver and Morton, this marks your first appearance before our Subcommittee, so we welcome you here today.

But for Commissioner Ahern, this hearing marks what is most likely your last appearance before us and I, for one, want to note with appreciation your 33 years of service to our Nation.  This Subcommittee has often relied upon you to explain the intricacies of CBP’s vast mission and we are truly grateful for your noteworthy efforts to improve security while also promoting legitimate travel and trade.

As the Chairman noted, it was seven months ago that this Subcommittee convened a hearing on the Mexican Drug War.  And since that hearing in March, DHS and its law enforcement partners have endeavored to further disrupt the drug cartels, as well as secure our borders.

But, in spite of notable efforts by our brave law enforcement and security professionals in the field, and the sustained courage of the Mexican government, the cartels continue to operate with near impunity:

  • The total number of drug-related murders in Mexico through October 2009 was approximately 7,000 – that surpasses last year’s total of 6,400 murders and is on pace to reach nearly 9,000 by the end of the year.
  • And, in Juarez – the Mexican border city just south of El Paso, Texas – the number of drug-related murders resulting from cartel infighting has passed 2,000 and is on pace to increase by almost 25% above last year.  This increase in murder rate is in spite of the sustained presence of the Mexican military and the replacement of municipal police officers and Federal customs officials that failed confidence exams.
  • As demonstrated by several enforcement actions by our Justice Department this year, the cartels’ distribution networks touch nearly every city in the United States and their methamphetamine operations now span the entire west coast of North America – infecting our Northern border with Canada as well.
  • And, despite DHS’s outbound inspection efforts at our ports of entry and along our rail lines, the cartels’ continue to obtain weapons and revenue from multiple sources.  And, they were even so bold as to not hesitate to kill one of the Border Patrol’s finest in July.

If there is one thing I am certain of from my time as a state prosecutor and my years in Congress, it’s that drugs pose a grave and unrelenting threat to the health, safety, and security of the United States.  Therefore, we must do all we can to secure our border, thwart these cartels, and put a stop to their savage criminality and murderous ways.

Now, as I stated back in March, the escalation in violence and territorial infighting over smuggling routes suggest that efforts to improve our border security, coupled with the noteworthy actions of Mexico’s leadership, have most certainly gotten the cartels’ attention.  Unfortunately, this also means things might even get worse before they get better.

So, the challenge being presented to DHS by this drug war is clear.  My question is whether or not we are up to the challenge?

  • And when I pose this question, I am not wondering whether we have the proper resources in place to just disrupt this organized crime; I’m wondering whether we have the tools and the will to actually break its back.

Now, I realize that’s a mighty tough chore – but I am quite certain it is a worthy fight.  After all, counter smuggling is perhaps our Nation’s oldest “homeland security” mission; spanning back to the days of Alexander Hamilton and his recognition for the need to establish a Customs service and what is now our Coast Guard.

 And so, today, I am not only interested in merely assessing our progress in taking this fight to the cartels; I am interested in learning about what more we can do in terms of resources and authority to combat and deter this clear and present threat to the United States and its citizens.

I ask these questions in part because I have serious concerns over the Administration’s direction on so-called immigration reform, worksite enforcement, DHS operational funding, and the like.  Subjects not on the agenda here today, but certainly inescapably tied to our ability to secure our nation, strengthen our border, and protect our people. We must get securing our border and stopping this drug menace right, before we entertain new, costly ideas or roll back our immigration laws.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I look forward to today’s discussion.

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