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U.S. officials admit losing ‘operational control’ of border, drug cartels poised to seize it

Border patrol union chief warns drug lords may soon fully control illegal entries as security presence dwindles to 10%

Published: May 13, 2023 11:15pm

With just two words, the top uniformed officer in the Customs and Border Protection agency sent shockwaves across official Washington two months ago when asked whether his agency has operational control of the southern U.S. border.

"No, sir," Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz told Congress in a shocking admission that exposed just how badly border security has deteriorated under President Joe Biden.

At the time, illegal crossings at the border in March were averaging 5,000 a day, far more than the historical average of 2,000 daily at the end of the Trump administration.

By last week, those crossing had exploded to a record 10,000 a day as the pandemic-related Title 42 order allowing migrants to be turned away expired.

Border officials says illegal crossings will soon shoot up to 11,000 to 16,000 daily. With each increase under Biden, more border patrol agents are being torn from their security roles and moved to process migrants and release them into the country.

When the total hits 16,000 daily, only 10% of available border agents will be on patrol and the drug cartels will have full control, says Brandon Judd, a border patrol agent and the president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union representing border agent.

Judd says the crisis point will emerge in a few weeks when media attention to the end of Title 42 subsides and the cartels take full advantage.

"As the talk starts to die down, as you start to see the media go away from the border, that's when we're going to see the numbers start to shoot right back up,” Judd told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Friday. "So we can expect post-Title 42, we can expect that our numbers are going to go up anywhere between 13,000 to 16,000 apprehensions per day."

Judd provided unprecedented detail on how border secutity patrols decrease as illegal migrants rise.

"When we're apprehending 3,000 people, we're pulling resources out of the field," he explained. "We don't have as many Border Patrol agents patrolling the border. When we're apprehending 5,000 people a day – now we only have 50% of our border patrol agents patrolling the border. When we hit 10,000 apprehensions a day, that means we're only deploying 30% of our border patrol agents to patrol the border.

"And when that happens, the cartels are able to gain ground on the vast majority of our border, as they start controlling the vast majority of our border. Once those numbers go up to 13,000 to 16,000, we're only going to have 10% of our border patrol agents actively patrolling the border, and the cartels will own every inch of the border.”

You can listen to that interview here.

Judd and other officials said there has been a substantial rise in deadly fentanyl, human trafficking and crime inside the United States, but Americans aren’t prepared for how bad it could get in the next few months.

"It's going to get really bad," said former Rep. Mayra Flores, R-Texas, whose husband serves in the border patrol. "I'm worried about our country. I'm worried about the innocent children as well that are being brought to the United States illegally, then abandoned in the middle of nowhere.

"Our border patrol agents are exhausted. They can't apprehend everyone coming in. So you have cartels taking advantage of our weak immigration policies. We have terrorists taking advantage of our weak policies."

Even prominent Democrats have begun sounding the alarm.

"There is no end game," Democrat El Paso, Texas, Mayor Oscar Leeser warned after declaring an emergency in his border city that includes blocking access to streets if necessary.

"We have already closed the streets," he told PBS. "We will continue to close streets as needed to be, because one of the things that's really important to us – that we do protect asylum seekers but also make sure that our community stays protected."

The Biden administration is doubling down on its policies, having allowed Title 42 to expire Friday and on Saturday announcing it would appeal a federal judge's order blocking it from releasing illegal aliens into the country.

The administration has sent mixed signals, keeping its border policies in place while Secretary of State Antony Blinken raises concerned that just to the south in Mexico cartels are gaining control of certain areas.

Blinken’s claim drew a shapr rebuke from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who called his assertion false.

"There is no place in the country that does not have the presence of authorities," he told reporters during a news conference Friday.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism And Responses to Terrorism, a respected think tank at the University of Maryland that is aligned with the Department of Homeland Security, recently issued a warning, complete with a map, showing how the expansion of cartels poses serious risks for the United States and Mexico, their current governments’ assurances aside.

"Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and related actors pose significant threats to homeland security," the consortium wrote. "Mexico and the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) serve as operational centers and conduits –by air, land and sea – for TCOs' illicit goods and activities reaching the United States.

"In recent years, TCOs have increasingly embraced new, violent practices and advanced strategies to circumvent homeland security. Crimes include murder, trafficking and smuggling of drugs, weapons, humans, as well as corruption, financial crimes, and illicit procurement of materials and technology," the consortium also wrote. "The growth in criminal density and geographical expansion of TCOs across Mexico and the Northern Triangle produce great instability in the region along the United States' southern border."

Judd, the border agent union chief, agreed the situations is increasingly bleak.

"When you look at what they're going to bring across – the fentanyl, the criminal aliens, the aliens from special interest country – that's why border security is so important to the United States," he said. "We keep so much of that out. But when we can't properly patrol the border, we can't do it. And the American people, they suffer for it."

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