Washington (CNSNews.com) -- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Deputy Commissioner David Aguilar told CNSNews.com that Mexican drug cartels control “several areas along our border with Mexico.”
In Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, CNSNews.com asked Aguilar, “Do you think Mexican drug cartels have taken control of the human trafficking that takes place from Mexico to the U.S.?”
Aguilar said, “There are several areas along our border with Mexico where in fact we believe that the drug cartels not only have taken control, but control the areas by which the illegal crossings occur.”
When CNSNews.com also asked if he thought Mexican drug cartels had made human trafficking from south of the border into the United States more violent, Aguilar said, “absolutely.”
“All the violence that occurs, against illegal aliens that occur, occur at the hands of smugglers,” said Aguilar. “The smugglers are working in coordination with the drug cartels and the drug trafficking organizations.”
Aguilar spoke with CNSNews.com at a press conference in the nation’s capital held to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Regarding Mexican drug cartel involvement in human trafficking from Mexico to the United States, Aguilar said the drug cartels, much like the Mafia, are involved in multiple criminal enterprises that go beyond trafficking narcotics.
“Drug trafficking organizations being involved in [human] smuggling has been historical. It has been a legacy. It has happened consistently in my 30 some years of service,” Aguilar said. “This is something that we have seen evolve into what we see happening today: that the cartels are turning into more of a Mafia-like organization that are specializing not just in any one crime, not in the singular fashion.”
“Now they may have a focus of narcotics, but they will expand very Mafia-like into other criminal opportunities, one of them being the smuggling of people in the United States,” said Aguilar.
“Therefore, being involved in what we are discussing today -- the exploitation of young men, young women, children for human trafficking, slavery, forced labor, and things of this nature -- they are looking to make that all-mighty dollar and that is what they focus their efforts on, any crime that will get them that profit,” he said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, who spoke alongside Aguilar during the press conference, agreed.
“I agree, unfortunately, with what Deputy Aguilar has stated, when you consider that [Mexican drug cartels] are diversifying, whether it’s kidnapping, whether it’s intellectual property theft, narcotics, human smuggling,” Kibble told CNSNews.com. “They, of course, control the plazas [in Mexico], the approaches that facilitate smuggling into the country -- the cartels, of course, control the territory and the approach and tax other criminal ventures that may be operating in their area of responsibility. So there is certainly that kid of involvement as well.”
During a speech in Washington D.C at the beginning of April, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who overseas CBP and ICE, said that "given the statistical framework," the U.S.-Mexico border is not “overrun or out of control,” adding that those who make such claims are just trying to score political points.
Back on March 28, Aguilar, speaking in Washington D.C., admitted that the U.S. government only had operational control of “about 1,100 miles, give or take” of the approximately 2,000-mile long U.S.-Mexico border – operational control refers to the ability to reasonably deter illegal cross-border activity in that area. He added that the United States does not need a “high level of control” in certain areas.
During Tuesday’s press conference, the CBP launched a public service campaign dubbed “Don’t Be Fooled,” which is aimed at raising awareness about humans being forcefully trafficked into the United States. Two video public service announcements sponsored by the CBP are to begin airing in what the agency consider key markets: Florida, Georgia, Washington, D.C., and its metro area.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, both components of the Department of Homeland Security, have dedicated agents to combat human trafficking into the United States.
The CBP chief indicated that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants that have crossed into this country are vulnerable to becoming victims of human trafficking.
The CBP this year has already apprehended “over 257,000 people crossing illegally in between the ports of entry,” said Aguilar during the press conference. “That is a tremendous opportunity for those who would prey and exploit these people crossing into this country to where they will prey on them,” to exploit them either through forced labor or sexually, among other ways, he said.
“The campaign that we are announcing here today is No Te Enganes, translated means Do Not Be Fooled,” Aguilar told reporters during the press briefing. “Do not be fooled into thinking that individuals being brought into this country, putting their lives at the hands of smugglers, that are careless, that are heartless. That the possibility exists that they could be placed into human slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and other types of slavery that unfortunately and tragically we know exists within the borders of our country.”
The ICE official said that while human smuggling is transportation-based, human trafficking is exploitation-based.