Border under control of cartels, not the US, Yuma residents say as gangs rake in billions off human smuggling

YUMA, Ariz. – Mexican cartels controlling the southern border endanger Americans as they smuggle drugs and violent criminals into the U.S., a border town official told Fox News.

“This is not a political discussion,” Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines told Fox News. “This is a national security issue.”

“Unless this situation changes and we take back control from the cartels, forthe trafficking coming across our border, it will only get worse,” Lines said.

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The cartels have established effective — and lucrative — smuggling operations and use the migrant surge to bypass overwhelmed Border Patrol officials, according to Lines. Migrants can pay the cartels to help them cross the border, but if they can’t afford the cost, then they can traffic drugs or work off their debt in lieu of cash.

“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,” a Yuma resident and farmer, Alex Muller, told Fox News. “It’s just like a ticking time bomb.”

Nearly 100 known or suspected terrorists were arrested at the southern border last year, according to Customs and Border Protection. By comparison, over the previous five years, there was a combined total of 26 arrests.

Meanwhile, human smuggling operations’ profits have skyrocketed in recent years. According to Homeland Security Investigations, the industry raked in $13 billion as of July — up from $500 million in 2018. And CBP seized 15,000 pounds of fentanyl along the southern border in 2022 — a 206% increase since 2020.

Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines says some migrants are indebted to the cartels for years after crossing through the U.S.-Mexico border.
(Fox News/Megan Myers)

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“You have all these cartels that basically run this border, funneling people and drugs across,” a Yuma resident and fifth-generation farmer, Hank Auza, told Fox News. “That’s big money and people.”

Migrant encounters increased from 480,000 in 2020 to 2.3 million last year, according to CBP. In Yuma, there was a 171% increase in migrant crossings between 2021 and 2022.

“The whole world is crossing the border, and these are the people who want to get caught,” Muller told Fox News. “There’s a lot of people who don’t want to get caught.”

“Where are they going and who’s supporting them?” Muller continued. “That’s what’s scary.”

The border town of Yuma, Arizona, saw a 171% increase in migrant crossings between 2021 and 2022 and nationwide migrant encounters are reaching record-highs.
(Photo by Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images)

Cartel fees for migrants trying to cross the border can range anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000, a George Mason University professor told The New York Times. One man took out a $20,000 loan to smuggle his two sons into the U.S. They were later found dead in the back of a tractor-trailer abandoned in San Antonio along with 51 others.

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Many migrants remain “indebted to the cartel” after crossing into the U.S., Lines said. As a result, they’re forced to work off their debts.

“Not everybody is able to pay for it, and they come as indentured servants,” Lines told Fox News.

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Muller said the cartels taken advantage of Biden’s border policies for the last two years.

“The border is 100% not secure,” he told Fox News. “It’s wide open.”

“It’s 100% dangerous what’s happening right now,” Muller said. “I’m sure it might be too late as this has been like this for the last two and half years.”

To hear more from Lines on Mexican cartels’ control over the southern border, click here.