While Americans remain focused on the caravasion and its subsequent imitators, the far more serious problem associated with porous borders remains largely ignored. On Tuesday in New York City, jury selection began in the trial of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The former head of the Sinaloa drug cartel stands accused of dozens of murders, as well as smuggling more than 200 tons of cocaine into the United States. Sinaloa is one of six cartels the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has labeled the “greatest criminal drug threat to the United States” four years running.
Sinaloa, one of the oldest cartels, has the largest footprint in America. It has established routes to Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago, through border breaches of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas.
The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which emerged out the Sinaloa cartel less than 10 years ago, is the newest cartel with established routes to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, emanating from its operations in Tijuana, Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo. CJNG is very violent and willing to fight with other cartels and the Mexican government.
The Juarez Cartel, based in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, has drug distribution hubs in El Paso, Denver, Chicago, and Oklahoma City, via drugs smuggled through West Texas and New Mexico.
The Gulf Cartel is another older and well-established enterprise that distributes drugs to Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta. It coordinates with domestic gangs in West Texas who not only distribute marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine on the cartel’s behalf, but also carry out nationwide attacks and assassinations for them.
The Los Zetas cartel is an offshoot of the Gulf Cartel, delivering drugs from Mexico to Laredo, Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta. According to the DEA, its power has largely diminished due to a separation into two entities: the Northeast Cartel (CDN) of rebranded mainstream Zetas, and a breakaway group known as the Old School Zetas (VE).
Lastly, the Beltran Leyva Cartel, another offshoot of the Sinaloa cartel, sends drugs from the Mexican states of Guerrero, Morelos, and Nayarit to hubs in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. It works with the Juarez, Los Zetas, and CJNG cartels to maintain corridors to those cities.
Last May, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen gave the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee an inkling of what America is really up against, warning that human smuggling operations alone “are contributing $500 million a year — or more — to groups that are fueling greater violence and instability in America and the region.” Human smugglers who have allegedly kidnapped at least 100 members of the current caravan and turned them over to the cartels.
Unsurprisingly, The Washington Post was skeptical, calling the $500 million figure “arbitrary” because some of the trafficking funds are operating costs that don’t end up directly in the pockets of the cartels. Yet because DHS used conservative estimates to get that number, even the WaPo is forced to concede it might be higher.
One suspects most Americans are appalled by the idea of human trafficking per se, as well as the real problem addressed by Nielsen. “This is not and should not be a partisan political issue,” she stated. “The past four presidents have pleaded with Congress to act on this security challenge. But this administration is tired of waiting.”
In October, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was targeting 45 leaders, financiers, transporters, and suppliers of CJNG with 15 indictments for bringing cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the U.S. — at a rate of 10 tons per month.
Sessions also created a multi-agency task force to deal with the issue, yet the scope of CJNG’s power alone is daunting. In 2016, the Treasury Department described it as one of the world’s “most prolific and violent drug trafficking organizations,” one that controls drug trafficking routes on America’s southwest and northwest border, as well as sea routes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It also controls the flow of the chemical components needed to make the drugs, which originate in Asia and other parts of Latin America, and operates more than 100 meth labs in Mexico.
Based on the average street price associated with these drugs, times the aforementioned 10 tons per month smuggled, the CJNG cartel is netting approximately $12.7 billion per year. Todd Bensman, national security expert at the Center for Immigration Studies and former intelligence analyst with the Texas Department of Public Safety, warns that CJNG is “like no other cartel the world has ever seen before in terms of its reach, its financial, military and organizational power.”
The military component is sobering. In 2015, CJNG used a rocket-propelled grenade launcher to shoot down a military helicopter, and it shot down a police helicopter the following year.
In 2007, Mexico and the United States established the Mérida Initiative, a bilateral partnership aimed at helping Mexico disrupt the cartels and improve internal and border security. America has provided Mexico with billions of dollars, but the funding has done next to nothing to stem the flow of drugs or mitigate the violence. Thus, the Trump administration cut it by approximately 40%.
The future looks unpromising as well. Mexico’s incoming President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a communist backed by the drug cartels. He has promised to end his nation’s militarization of the drug war, and he remains opposed to Trump’s border wall.
He’s not the only one. Despite controlling all three branches of government, Republicans never made border security or the wall a priority, even as they approved massive amounts of irresponsible federal spending. The new House majority, courtesy of a Democrat Party that has moved toward prioritizing the needs of illegals over those of Americans, will be even less accommodating.
Yet while America dithers, the cartels get more sophisticated. “U.S. Border Patrol agents based in San Diego have spotted 15 drones flying between Tijuana, Mexico, and Southern California over the past 12 months,” the Washington Examiner reports. These drones, which have seemingly replaced the ultralight, single-pilot aircraft formerly used to smuggle drugs, can transport drugs, firearms, and money over the border — and spy on border agents.
Agents currently have no tools for detecting drones other than their eyes and ears, because counter-drone measures have not yet been implemented. The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018, signed into law by Trump last month, gave the DHS permission to begin formulating a response, but it could take as long as a year to come up with a plan.
In the meantime, America remains wholly vulnerable. Remember that when you hear the Leftmedia-driven narrative about “benign” caravans, or the orchestrated handwringing about how the number of American troops sent to the border could exceed the number in Afghanistan.
There were six American casualties in Afghanistan in 2017, and 1,662 war-related civilian deaths between January 1 and June 30, according to the UN. That same year, America endured a record-setting 72,000 opioid-related deaths, and Mexico endured a decades-worst 29,168 murders. Both figures are overwhelmingly attributable to cartel smuggling and violence.
In other words, it’s time America started treating drug cartels as what they truly are: terrorist organizations that pose a threat to national security. Anything less is political posturing.