Officials and locals in Yuma, Ariz., say Mexican cartels who smuggle drugs and people into the United States are effectively in control of the southern border, with one person describing the situation as a “ticking time bomb.”
The cartels, which charge as much as $20,000 each to help migrants sneak into the US, have been using the ongoing illegal immigration surge to overwhelm Border Patrol officials as they run their lucrative trafficking operations, Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines told Fox News.
“This is not a political discussion,” Lines said. “This is a national security issue.”
“Unless this situation changes and we take back control from the cartels, for the trafficking coming across our border, it will only get worse,” he added.
”There’s a lot of people that don’t like the United States for whatever reason, and there’s plenty of people that want to get in here and do some damage,” agreed Alex Muller, a farmer in Yuma, told Fox News. “It’s just like a ticking time bomb.”
Migrants who can’t afford to pony up the hefty smuggling fee will often offer to bring in drugs to pay off the debt.
More than 2.7 million encounters were recorded in fiscal year 2022, according to data from Customs and Border Protection, and Fox News reported migrant crossings in the Yuma sector increased by 171% between 2021 and 2022.
Cartels have seen their profits jump from $500 million in 2018 to an estimated $13 billion in 2022, the New York Times reported, citing Homeland Security Investigations, the federal agency that specializes in stopping trafficking.
“The whole world is crossing the border, and these are the people who want to get caught,” Muller said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to get caught.”
“Where are they going and who’s supporting them?” he added. “That’s what’s scary.”
The Yuma farmer said the cartels have stepped up their activities since the beginning of the Biden administration in 2021.
“The border is 100% not secure,” he told Fox News. “It’s wide open.”
“It’s 100% dangerous what’s happening right now,” Muller went on. “I’m sure it might be too late, as this has been like this for the last two and half years.”