tv Senate Judiciary Hearing on Drug Cartels Border Security - Panel 1 CSPAN December 17, 2018 8:33am-9:53am EST
spirit of compromise and mutual concession. >> thomas jefferson question the need for senate. >> the founders envisioned -- >> let's follow the constitution. >> the framers established the sin to protect people from their rulers and as a check on the house. >> the fate of this country and made it with the world lies in the hands congress and the united states senate. >> the senate, conflict and compromise, a c-span original production, exploring the history, traditions and role of this uniquely american institution. >> please raise your right hand. >> wednesday, january 2 at p.m. eastern and pacific on c-span. >> i senate judiciary subcommite held a hearing on drug cartels and border security. hearing testimony from homeland security and u.s. border patrol
officials. and the chief of police of tucson, arizona. senator john cornyn shares this to an half hour hearing. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon and welcome. today's hearing is entitled "narcos: transnational cartels and border security." today's hearing will provide an opportunity for us to look beyond our borders and examine the larger problems contributing to the crisis along our borders. if you watch the news recently you can see just how serious the crisis has become. back in the time when with thousands of unaccompanied minors in the rio grande valley sector, president obama called that a humanitarian crisis. i think that would also describe
what's happening today in and around tijuana, and will do more about that. as a note there probably thousands of central american migrants waiting at our southern border trying to enter the united states. this is not a new phenomenon. regardless of which parties control republican or democrat we've dealt with such influxes micros for decades. in the 1980s it was memory of cuban vote for in 1990s the cuban and haitian influx, just a few years ago as i mentioned, one to 14 we saw a surge of unaccompanied minors from central america. so improving our border security doesn't mean just improving physical security along our border. it also means addressing the problems that bring them here in the first place. the mass movement of these migrants is only a symptom of a greater problem, one that help we will discuss in detail here
today. one of the greatest threats to our national security is the trafficking of persons, drugs, and arrange of alyssa get into the united states. there is no single point of origin for those crimes, and we see this flow stemming from around the world. from east asia, africa, europe and south america. trafficking of course is big business and, unfortunately, for us they have proven to be pretty good at it. the proceeds from illicit drug sales are worth approximately $64 billion annually. that's millions, not millions. that money isn't fueling the use come. that's lining the pockets of criminals, the cartels, the nor goes if you, continue to perpetrate the cycle. in short i think they are winning in this effort, notwithstanding our efforts. notwithstanding the heroic efforts of law enforcement and other government officials because frankly congress has not
awaken to the real crisis and come up with a solution to do with it at multiple levels. the drug cartels transnational criminal organizations and international gangs will stop at nothing to ensure that their business model remains intact and profitable, and that the international quarter horse for trafficking remained wide open. they are sure -- core doors. and they evolve. they use every tactic in the book to further criminal enterprises whether it's murdering government officials, regular folks threatening people, intimidating people, raping, torture, slavery, fraud, peddling fake documents, money laundering. the list goes on and on and on. not only are we dealing with ruthless criminal enterprises, we're battling enemies that are ever evolving as a set and constantly the move. they are what i've heard referred to as commodity agnostic. they really don't care, as long as they make money and they
don't care who they kill, who they hurt of what the consequence of their criminal enterprise are. they spread terror. they prey on the weak and if taken control over large parts of mexico and several central american countries. we frequently see these criminal organizations preying on migrants headed towards this countries southern border. they will offer to smuggle migrants for their children, sent across the board in exchange for money. but as today's witnesses can attest, this safe journey is anything but. too often these migrants are abandoned or cranked into the back of an 18 wheeler with a dozen of their victims. i've seen it time and time again that these groups have absolutely no respect for human life. it's not just the people who died at their hands while attempted to enter the united states illegally. it's the poison that they import into the country.
america's opioid crisis is being further fueled by the illicit narcotics being smuggled by these organizations fentanyl, aa synthetic opioid come is one of the deadliest drugs in the world and its analogs are mainly manufactured in china and then smuggled into the united states by these organizations. their growing influence of cartels, gangs and transnational criminal organizations has led to global and regional insecurity. and there's a need for increased security cooperation to be sure with our neighbors in mexico and certainly central america. just to name a couple. the united states needs to work with our international partners to develop a comprehensive plan to address these problems. this war on drugs, trafficking and smuggling is one that affects all of us, and it's time we pick up our pace in dealing with it in a focused and
hopefully successful way. again, this problem does not begin or end at our borders. this is a global problem, but for our purposes, focused primarily on our country's to the south but it is certainly the avenues available into the united states can be exploited by anybody who's got the money or the will to try to come into the united states illegally. so by parting with governments in asia, africa, europe and central america we can begin to fight these cartels and take the money and the prophets out of their sordid business. i look for to hearing from our witnesses about the scope of the problems. i think one of the biggest challenges we have is lack of public awareness. this is not looking through a soda straw at what's happening at the san ysidro bridget tijuana. this is a much bigger problem, much more complex than one when you open that aperture and to help us here today and try to understand before we can begin to come up solutions.
before turning to senator durbin for his opening marks i'd asking and its consent that senator grassley opening statement for this hearing include in the record which will be without objection. senator durbin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me say to you, , to the witnesses and the audience my apologies for coming in two minutes late. i was on the floor for the farewell address of our colleague senator nelson. i'm sorry that i was not here when i should've been. thank you for the st. peter's almost ten years ago i helped my first hearing as the chairman of the crime and drug subcommittee in this room. the subject of the hearing, the threat to the united states posed by the mexican drug cartels. ten years ago we had that hearing. at this hearing in march of 2000 i quoted a justice department report that concluded mexican drug cartels are, quote, the greatest organized crime threat to the united states. so here we are ten years later.
how are we doing? last month the dea's 22 national drug threat assessment concluded that mexican drug cartels remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the united states. i closed my 2009 hearing by saying we must take action to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the united states and stem the flow of illegal guns and money to mexico. democrats and republicans must work together to find bipartisan common sense solutions to this challenge. now today ten years later we are in the midst of a drug epidemic like we've never seen before. in 2017, drug overdoses in the united states killed a record 70,237 people. the deadliest drug we face is fentanyl. last year, 28,466 overdose deaths involving fentanyl, an
increase of more than 45% over the previous year. much of this fentanyl comes from china through the mail. but fentanyl is also been shipped from china to mexico before being trafficked across the u.s. border. the dea has found that the cartels transport the bulk of the illicit goods over the southwest border through legal ports of entry using passenger vehicles or tractor-trailers. yesterday we had a hearing in the same realm. the customs and border protection commissioner mr. michelini told me directly and october of 2017 that his top priority was to secure the border with more try through inspections, which he characterized as see portals. when asked him what he needed to keep narcotics out of the united states and make it safe, he said technology and personnel. he did not say a wall. according to department of homeland security, these try
through inspection systems which he has referred to, examine 98% of all the rail cars passing into the united states. but only 18% of cargo passenger vehicles and sea containers combined to 90% of the railroa, 18% of the others. yet the 2019 president's budget request included only $44 million for these systems. asked mr. mcaleenan yesterday what would it take and what do you need to put these portal systems in that basically scan these vehicles as they come through to try to detect contraband, drugs, people being smuggled, drug trafficking, human trafficking, , what do you need? he said $300 million. that's a fraction of $5 billion that this president is demanding for the wall. and the administration, sadly,
in its budget request did not ask for funding for additional customs officers, even though we clearly need more officers to detect the drugs at the ports of entry and an international mail. six month ago i got off the plane and o'hara, stayed out there at a postal facility and took a look at how we monitor the mail them into the united states to try and detect drugs that are being sent by mail. it happens every day. it's a good system but it's not nearly what it should be and the people there will tell you that. they work at it and they kept some of them, a lot of them are not caught. instead what the president is telling us that is when to shut down our government. if he doesn't get $5 billion for a wasteful, ineffective border wall. we need modern drug technology to stop the drug cartels from importing the poison that is killing our kids. not a medieval solution like a wall from sea to shining sea.
this is a circle, too. there are not just exporting drugs into the united states. we are exporting drugs and laundered drug money into mexico. what have we done to stop the iron river of guns from the united states that arms mexican cartels to the teeth? in 2016 the gao found 70% of crime guns seized in mexico traced to ats crime gun tracing program came from the united states. according to gao, quote, most were purchased legally at gun shows, and gun shows in the united states, and then trafficked illegally to mexico. the federal agencies with jurisdiction over the southern flow of guns, or atf, which enforces federal gun laws, and i.c.e. which enforces export laws, and investors traffickers and cartels, are they doing enough? atf and i.c.e. have an agreement that governs their coordination of firearms trafficking from the
united states to mexico. but in 2016 the gao found there were shortfalls and information sharing and collaboration between atf and i.c.e. that improvement was needed. i will send a letter letter to the general accounting office asking them to update their 2016 report and expanded to look at firearms trafficking to central american country. i invite my colleagues to join me. customs and border protection also play a key role here. the gao found and i quote, custom important protections bound mission is to facilitate the movement of legitimate cargo while interdicting the illegal export of weapons and other contraband out of the united states. however, in 2017, cbp spokesperson said outbound inspections are only conducted, quote, when resources permit. why on earth doesn't this administration request more resources for outbound inspections to stop the export
of deadly firearms from the united states to these mexican cartels? one thing congress should do is finally prohibit straw purchasing and gun trafficking under federal law. right now use attorneys office after prosecuting those crimes as paperwork violations, which means most of them won't spend any time doing it at all. i have joined with senator leahy and senator collins on a bill that would create offenses with realty for this ever victory my hearing ten years ago we are testament about the smuggling of bulk cash and laundered money from the united states back to cartels. it's the circle. the export narcotics to the united states. we export drugs -- partly, we export guns and laundered money back into these cartels. we wonder why they are so powerful? according to the latest dea drug threat assessment, the amount of bulk cash seized has been steadily decreasing over the last eight years.
dea report quote, large amounts of cash continue to be interdicted along major highway corridors with the cash typically concealed and hidden in vehicle compartment or among legitimate cargo. again, there would be strong bipartisan support in congress for more resources for outbound inspections if only the administration put as much priority on this effort as they do on a wall. there is more that congress can do. in 2013 when democrats controlled the senate we passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform. do you know how much was included in that bill for border security funding? $40 billion, and over 60 senators senators voted for it. no lack of will it comes to border security. sadly, republican leaders in the house refused to even consider the bill. earlier this year we tried it again. after we got the report from mr. mcaleenan and others, i worked with my colleagues on a
bipartisan immigration agreement to include the border security provisions he asked for. increasing the funding for these same portal scanning devices, port of entry infrastructure and personnel, , funding for biometc entry and exit screening. on favorite 15th at bipartisan majority of the senate supported our agreement with this border security included but it failed to reach the 60 votes needed because the president opposed it. on the same day a bipartisan super majority the senate rejected a presidents alternative bill. we have to be honest about the challenges we face, smart about the way we use resource to address them. i will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reform our broken immigration system and improve security, reducing brutal cartel violence. smuggled will not be accomplished by a border wall or punishing innocent victims of cartel violence who are desperately seeking safety in the united states. we have to work to address the drug epidemic in our nation,
stop the weapons and cash that flow south to cartels, and collaborate more effectively with regional nations to strengthen their economies and to decrease cartel violence. thank you, mr. chairman. >> i was glad to hear that ten years ago, convened hearing on some aspects of the same problem but being an optimist, basically based on what you were saying i see some common ground for investing in scanning devices, customs officers, data with a strong purchasers in the book cash transfers across the border. border. i see some components of some legislation that we can work on together like we've worked on criminal justice reform, which i hope is successful. but at the same time i noted that during the gang of eight immigration bill come you said there were $40 billion appropriated for border security, and in the daca proposal they got 44 44 votes,i
think it was 25 billion i'm still confused about the fight over 5 billion, but i agree with you, it shouldn't be just about physical barriers. should be about technology. it should be about personnel. it's more of a system is way i can think of it. maybe the chief will enlighten us further. i'm sure she will. so it's my pleasure to introduce our witnesses for the first panel. mr. kemp chester is currently the assistant director of the opioids coordination group in office of national drug control policy. before coming to ondcp, mr. chester was a senior director for national security and intelligence at a private sector consulting firm in washington, d.c. before that completed 27 years of service and the united states army in the as deputy director for intelligence of the americas regional center and chief of the office of counter-narcotics worldwide. janice ayala is currently director for the joint task
force investigations at u.s. immigration and customs enforcement. prior to her current position she served as the deputy director of joint task force west. she served as special agent in charge for i.c.e. homeland security investigations in my hometown san antonio, texas, and i.c.e. headquarters as assistant director of domestic operations. as the assistant director for domestic operations, ms. ayala oversaw the investigative efforts of more than 7000 hsi special agents assigned to 26 sac offices throughout the united states including investigate matters related to national security, money laundering, and drug cash smuggling and human smuggling and trafficking. our third witness is the move to the committee, , she has been before, ms. carla provost. chief of the u.s. border patrol at the u.s. customs and border protection. before her current position,
chief provost has served and a number of capacities within border patrol including as field operations supervisor in the tucson sector, chief patrol agent for the el centro sector, deputy chief patrol agent of the el paso sector and assistant chief patrol agent for the jew sector -- schumer sector. mr. paul knierim, office of global enforcement of the drug enforcement agency. he for his current position, equity chief served as special agent in the denver field of vision is also assigned to the ecuador country office. he also served as the country at that share a in the costa rican country office and his assistant regional director for the north and central american region based in mexico city. thank you all for being here today. i would like each of you to
provide us with your opening statement we know we have a written document for each of you so don't feel necessary to return that or repeat that. that would make part of the record. so mr. chester, we will turn to you for your -- >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> one matter of business. i need to swear you in, please. [witnesses were sworn in] >> excuse me, mr. chester. please start again. >> yes, sir. chairman cornyn, ranking member durbin and members of the subcommittee, on behalf of deputy director jim carroll thank you for inviting the office of national drug control policy here to discuss the threat posed to the united states by mexican transnational criminal organizations and u.s.-mexico cooperation to address drug policy issues in
both countries. on february 9, .17 17 president trump sign an executive order stating the transnational criminal organizations including drug cartels represent a threat to the safety of the united states and its citizens. mexican cartels by merely derived their economic power from the production, movement and sale of illegal drugs. drugs provide the means for mexican cartels to employ military grade weapons systems, attempt to corrupt justice and security officials, and expand their territorial control in mexico and in u.s. markets making them the greatest criminal threat to the united states. in 2017 mexican cartels cultivated 44,100 44,100 hectaf opium poppy and produced 111 metric tons of pure heroin in mexico come smuggling the majority to the united states. increasing, mexican cartels are pressing fentanyl and fiddle analogs, clandestinely produced in china into fake prescription pills and smuggled them across
the southwest border. mexican cartels also produced the majority of the methamphetamine consumed in the united states and they facilitate colombian cartel trafficking of cocaine which is also increasingly affecting our communities. that two previous mexican presidential administrations attempt to confront the interval security threat presented by mexican cartels in their own ways. however, despite mexico's best efforts these cartels of exploited vulnerabilities and governmental institutions at all levels allowing their economic expansion even beyond drug trafficking. the profit earning potential mexican cartels exceeds the mexican governments annual budget allocated to its homeland security which amounts to less than 1% of mexico's annual budget. the governments of the united states and mexico had developed a common understanding of the impact of mexican cartels are having on both countries, and currently you are addressing this burden is a shared
responsibility. ondcp engages to directly withe government of mexico and as asa participant in high-level bilateral meetings including the security cooperation group and high-level dialogue on disrupting transnational criminal organizations. moreover, trilateral north american drug dialogue chaired by ondcp and the department of state brings together the governments of the united states, mexico and canada to expand counter drug cooperation in north america and allows all three countries to cooperate closely on the threat to the con ed. and it never to improve coordination between the united states and mexico, owing pcps worked with its counterparts with the government of mexico is focused on three primary goals. first, to complete what's called the monitoring system of illicit props in mexico program in conjunction with the u.n. office of drugs and crime to develop a shared understanding of the opium yield in mexico. this will be the first crop your study completed in more than 15 years.
second, to complete program funded by the state department bureau of international narcotics and law enforcement affairs that provides a legitimate technical validation of mexico's eradication progress. and third to use programs to establish an agreed-upon united states-mexico poppy eradication program, a shared eradication goal come at a joint strategy for intelligence driven eradication in mexico. on december 1, president loeber door was inaugurated as mexico's president vowing to fight corruption and develop a new vision to improve mexico's internal security. a few weeks prior to his inauguration, he presented his national peace and security plan to address security concerns in mexico and one of the plans eight dollars as of the eye narcotics strategy. although specific details of this narcotic strategy were not presented we expect that it will contain concrete and deliberate measures to directly address the
cartel problem that affects both our country's and we stand ready to continue our close and productive relationship with the new administration in this endeavor. in closing, the dynamic nature of the illicit marketplace controlled by mexican cartels demands that the united states continue to engage with mexico, to prevent the ongoing proliferation of illicit drugs that originate from our transit through mexico. we cannot allow mexican cartels to continue to contribute to the dangerous and often fatal effects of illicit drug use in the united states. ..
and employ more than 20,000 plow east in over 200 offices across the u.s. and 50 countries. today i will provide ice's perspectives and smuggling on the southwest border some of what we do to address the smuggling activities before the contraband comes into the united states. in 2014, jay johnson directed a department-wide comprehensive strategy to unify efforts across the jtf.
j tf east and jtf west. jtfi is responsible for inanswering criminal investigations. and it manages the dhs-wide for homeland for the top criminal network impactinghold security and coordinates dozens of investigations and operations to a national case management. ice is the executive agent of jtfi which consists of over 70 agencies, officers and analysts. as the largest investigative components, multi-facetted operations and investigations to combat tco's and terrorist activities. and the tco's are the mexican drug cartels and the united states working with mexican counterparts have access in
attacking the leadership. they have built-in redundancy and activities. they hide assets and conduct these globally. they trade, professional money laundering, cryptocurrency and cartels exploit vulnerabilities in u.s. and mexican financial systems and conduct layered financial transactions to circumvent regulatory scrutiny. the u.s. government has refined our ability for money laundering through capacity building, financial sanctions and direct engagement with at-risk financial institutions and jurisdictions. cartels use international gangs for extortion, kidnapping and acts. and there's operation community shield and international law enforcement initiative to combat the growth of
transnational activities and motorcycle gangs. in 2012 worked with foreign assets control to designate ms-13 as tco. the first criminal street gunning so designated. we have assigned more than 1500 special agents and more than 150 specialists. and the task forces include two border tunnel task forces to provide comprehensive regional response to border security and national security. hsi led that to comprise more local tribal international forces agencies. the border security task force was signed in law in 2012. mexico has proven to be an outstanding partner in the fight against tco's, throughout mexico city and utilized transnational criminal investigative units, which are trained counterparts with
authority to investigate and enforce violations law in their respective countries. these efforts open thousands of miles from the u.s.-mexico border in colombia and panama and act as a layer of security for our southwest border. during fy 2018, there were an all-time criminal arrests including 3600 transnational gang members, seizure of over a million pounds of narcotics. over 1100 seizures of violations of export laws and seize over 1.2 billion in monetary currencies. over 300 trafficking victims. thank you for your committed support to dhs, ice and our missions and your interest in these important issues and i would be pleased to answer any questions you may have. >> chief provost. >> thank you. sherman, ranking member durbin.
this saturday marks eight years since brian terry was murdered during a gun fight in southern arizona. these rip crews patrol our border with mexico looking for opportunities to rob illegal aliens and other drug smugglers. agent terry was a military veteran, a former police officer and served with the border patrol over three and a half years. his murder was a grace loss for our agency and illustrates the dangers presented by cartels and their associates. cartels and other transnational criminal organizations or tco's are a threat to our public security. tco maintain a diverse portfolio including fraud, human trafficking, kidnapping and exportion. they're heavily involved in all kinds of smuggling, moving people, weapons, cash and drugs through sophisticated criminal
networks. in fiscal year 2018 the border patrol seized more than $7 million in currency, more than 7,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin. and more than 450,000 pounds of marijuana. meth amphetamine seizures have increased 75% since fiscal year 15. and when we-- and we have seen a 115% increase in fentanyl seizures between the ports just this last year. tco's, also maintain influence over u.s.-based gangs for their distribution process. this means tco's not only present a threat at our borders through criminal networks and alliances, they present a threat to the interior of our country as well. although not all gang members are affiliated with cartels, last year the border patrol apprehended more than 800 gang members. that's a 50% increase over the previous year. this is in addition to the nearly 6700 aliens we
apprehended last year who have criminal histories, including theft, drugs, weapon trafficking and violent crimes. tco's conduct their operation without regard for human life. money and power are their only motivation. these are commodity agnostic. there's risk of beaten, raped, killed, on the journey to our border. tco's are motivated and ruth lers and they may operate as businesses, but do not play by the rules of law and are not bound by the bureaucratic impediments we're sometimes bound by in government. they stand nothing to gain, but profit. they're agile and adaptable. and they control their criminal enterprises.
to address the tco, we must have comprehensive approach across government. must work in conjunction with law enforcement partners including my colleagues on the panel today, to interdict illegal aliens, drug, cash and weapons at the border. this is a key component of u.s. border security and by extension, our national security. thanks to the support of congress in the past decade. the department of homeland security has deployed more personnel and tactical infrastructure than at any other time in our history. as tco's continue to exploit the border environment for their own financial gains, we must continue investing in all of these tools in the highest priority areas along the border. today we have already begun upgrading old vehicle barriers to better impede illegal cross-border activities like drug running. and we've prioritized these
that lacked deployment for new barriers, the latest text technology and we look forward to working congress with these priorities. my men and women are facing this threat every day and our efforts to make our country safer by bravely battling cartels and other tco threats. when border patrol agents report to work, they have no way of knowing what they may encounter. a family lost in the desert or a cartel rip crew armed with fully automatic weapons. the job is unpredictable and it is demanding, whether they're stopping criminals or narcotics or saving lives, the men and women of the border patrol are well-trained and guardians of america's front lines. i thank you for your time and look forward to your question. >> thank you, chief. there's a vote on in the senate and so senator durbin has gone
to vote and i'm going to go to senator cruz who will provide and -- preside and we will be back shortly. >> good afternoon, senator cruz, it's an honor to appear before you today to discuss mexican cartels, the extent of their efforts to manufacture, transport and distribute illicit things. i have at privilege of being a dea special agent since 1992. when i reflect on 27 years of experience, the sophistication and the capacity of the mexican cartels worries me now more than ever. dangerous and highly sophisticated mexican transnational organizations or cartels, operating in mexico and the united states, have been and will continue to be the most significant source of illicit narcotics trafficked inside the united states, whether it's heroin and synthetic opioids, or cocaine.
the mexican cartels are the source of this on our streets. the confluence of three things, synthetic drug threat, the epidemic of opioid abuse and fixing fentanyl and fentanyl related substantials with heroin and counterfeit prescription drugs and cocaine and methamphetamine. this is done for one simple reason, greed. this is a national threat of public health emergency fueled by fentanyl which is cheap to make, hard to detect and dangerously potent. chinese and mexican nationals are increasingly operating in concert resulting in an alignment responsible for the proliferation of heroin, fentanyl, and related sin synthetics coming across the border. fentanyl can be purchased less than $5,000 from china and the
potential sales one and a half million dollars. the cartels are deliberately seizing on the suffering of thousands of individuals to generate profit. aside from the proliferation of heroin and synthetic opioids, they transport methamphetamine and cocaine across the southwest border at an alarming rate. we cannot lose focus on cocaine and methamphetamine. the cartels are responsible for it across the united states. and the recent cocaine is troubling and foreshadows, abuse and overdose from these substances as well. the sinaloa cartel, the jalisco, or the juarez cartel, the other organizations will continue to be the primary networks operating in more than
one country, to plan and execute their criminal enterprise. these mex cap cartels do not observe boundaries or laws in the united states, mexico or any other country. as you know, in 2016 mexico extradited el chapo guzman to the united states and recently his trial in new york. we've heard one of the top lieutenant testify to the sinaloa's extensive, lucrative, cruel operations and further highlight the ability of the cartels to influence legitimate professionals such as accountants, notaries, lawyers, bankers, across illicit worlds to provide legitimate services to customers across the globe and this is from we partner with my colleagues across the table today and local law
enforcement partners, and especially mexico. let me briefly mention my gratitude as well as all of dea to mexican law enforcement and mexican security counterparts with whom we have partnered and made the ultimate sacrifice, our shared goal keeping citizens free from harm and keeping these substances out of our society unites us in partnership. this is leads me to what dea is doing to counter the threat. it across a broad spectrum, for decades we have maintained a worldwide presence to address the source of drugs and we have a robust presence in mexico. in mexico, dea continues to synchronize and expand capabilities to combat the growing epidemic and we have developed a bilateral intelligence strategy for coordinate the investigations, training, increased sharing of forensic information and the control of precursor chemicals. we participate in the north american drug dialog along with
federal government officials from mexico, canada and united states that focuses on building a strategy to attack the production, trafficking, consumption and misuse of illicit narcotics in north america. defeating the cartels at the opioid, state, local and federal and international partners such as mexico. they will continue to pursue illicit trafficking and dangerous drug traffickers is an an evolving mission. throughout our history. the dea has met those challenges and produced impressive results. we look forward to continuing to work with you and your senate colleagues to identify the resources and authorities necessary to complete our mission. thank you for the opportunity to testify before your committee on this important issue and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, sir. when i say thank you to each of the witnesses. thank you for your service.
each of you works in an incredibly difficult and important job and we are grateful for the hard work you've put in. mr. chester, let's talk about fentanyl for a minute. fentanyl is killing americans each and every day. can you tell this committee where it comes from, and how it makes its way into the united states? >> yes, senator. and you're absolutely correct. what we've seen really over the last two plus years in the united states is the rise in the prevalence and the lethality of fentanyl in u.s. communities. to the point that it is outpaced heroin and all other drugs in terms of mortality in the u.s. the fentanyl seen in the united states is primarily testified in china and it is not only the base fentanyl molecule itself. but we have cbp has encountered
up to 33 different analogs of the phentinol molecule for distribution to themselves or a small number of users, and comes in through the mail system or expressed consignment carriers who are commercial carriers. >> what quantity are we typically talking about? >> very, very small quantities. senator. talking 600, 700, 800 grams and because of that and because of its potency and lethality, it's purchased at a small dollar amount. at knowledge hard to detect, but it's at a dollar figure that's not raising suspicion. the other is through mexico. it's purchased in china, sent
to mexico and either shipped as part of a poly drug load across the southwest border, mixed in and middle with heroin or inert matter like lactose south of the border and brought up and sold as synthetic heroin or the third way we're seeing pressed into pills and sold as fake prescription opioids and brought in large numbers of pills across the southwest border. so, there are several different vectors for it to get into the united states. we can very clearly see the public health effects that it has in the united states and fentanyl will-- fentanyl and its analogs will continue to be a substantial problem in our drug environment in america. >> how many deaths are we looking at on an annual basis from fentanyl? >> so, most recent data that we have, in 201 was 28,400 deaths or about nine per day and that's what's termed by the centers for disease and control
synthetics other than methadone wisdom nated by fentanyl and aand -- analogs. and that's 48% increase. >> and what's the way mexico cartel to bring it into the country. >> the principally to buy it from china and bring it into the united states and bring it through their own cartel and obviously to a face-to-face sale in the united states. one of the things that makes fentanyl so attractive for drug cartels is the low upfront price and obviously, the high profits on the far end. and that's whether it is mixed into heroin and purchased by an intravenous drug user, by a known drug user or sold as a fake pill sometimes to an unwitting individual who believes they're getting
oxycontin or a percocet and they're getting this in a pill form. >> do we have an assessment how much the cartels are making from the trafficking? >> trafficking as a whole? >> let's take fentanyl or overall, both. >> overall and i believe it was senator cornyn who quoted the price about $64 billion today and that's absolutely within the realm of the possible, 64 billion dollars. the drugs continue to be the most lucrative and reliable source of income for transnational criminal organizations in mexico. >> chief provost, thank you for your good work, i've gotten to know a great many men and women in your agency and i'm greatful for their bravery, courage and service. >> thank you. >> let me ask you from your perspective. what additional tools are needed to slow down or stop this flow of fentanyl and other
illegal drugs in this country? >> well, thank you, senator. there are numerous things that we need. as you know, the border is very dynamic and there's no one thing that just seems to be the main issue that would stop it. we need in between the ports of entry in particular, more technology, more detection technology, we need more men and women, i need more k-9 handlers as well, we use them quite a bit and of course i need more barriers because it does impede and deny and at the ports of entry, there was discussion earlier and my colleagues over there are expanding nonintrusive technology which we utilize, but it's a no one size fits all. it's a mixture of all of those things. >> now, one of the tools you mentioned that you needed was more physical barriers, be it a wall or other forms of physical
barriers. as you know, we're in the mid of vigorous debates right now in the senate. let me ask you, in your experience, what is the impact of a wall and physical barriers and what are the benefits of it. >> personally and just to keep it on topic with cartels, when i was an agency in douglas, arizona, east of douglas there was a drive-through and we used to have numerous in the area. i was involved in the seizure of over 490 pounds of cocaine. thankfully the drive shaft on the truck broke and the vehicle was trying to get back south away from us. we had no barrier at that time along the border in that area. once we put barrier this that area, those drive-throughs stopped and that was one example when it comes to particularly narcotic smuggling. as you know, senator, the
barriers are needed for impe impedence and denial. and technology, that provides situational awareness, but if we can't impede and deny, 2,000 mile border, difficult terrain to work in, the situational awareness lets me know it's crossing, but sure doesn't stop it from crossing. >> in terms of technology what have you found is most if he can actual, being it virtual barrier, fixed win, rotary aircraft, what has the greatest positive impact in enage you to most effectively do your job? >> because of the diversity of the border we find a mixture of all of the things and depends upon the area. when we are talking about areas with quick vanishing times, obviously, having a camera technology so that we can see. when we work in the remote areas, more detection capability is necessary for us. we have been expanding our tools in our tool kit and have
found that having a diverse tool kit is critical for us to be able to deploy the appropriate resources in the appropriate location. >> ms. ayala, can you describe the extent of the violence perpetrated by mexican drug cartels, both in the united states and in mexico? >> i would say that mexican cartels and cartels in general have become more and more violent. they follow a pattern of violence and then when certain federal officials are sent to certain areas, then the areas calm down and they're discouraged from violence in order for them to pursue their trafficking activities throughout the border area, south of the border. on this side of the border, i think we saw a lot of violence as far as in 2005 in the south
texas border and then later on with the murders and then later on what we saw was mostly the purchase of weapons to smuggle to the mexico in order to engage in extortion and other assaultive and violent actions and torture on the mexican side. what we sue now, cartels are using ms-13 and other gang members for kidnapping, extortion and other violent crimes and that fall into the rico statutes and that's why-- >> to what extent is that crossing over the border into the united states? >> excuse me? >> to what extent is that crossing the border into the united states? >> as far as when we're talking about the gang piece, to put is in perspective we have 100,000 ms-13 gang members in the northern triangle and more than half of them are-- 15,000 are in jails, 30,000 on
the street we have approximately 10,000 gang members here. ms-13 gang members here in the united states, and through our operation community shield, the last five or six years, we've picked up over 8500 ms-13 members, associates and seized multi-ton quantities of drugs and weapons, and other violent implements, whether it be ammunition and so forth. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator cruz for covering that while we were voting. voting. >> and we arranged for the protesters to occur while you were gone. [laughter] >> good timing. >> so let me ask each of you, or anybody who has an answer, but not that long ago, the united states government decided we needed to do something to help the government of colombia deal with the narco traffickers and
cocaine in particular coming up into the united states, deal with things like cocoa eradication and provide equipment and training for the government of colombia. i was in colombia about four months ago and while things aren't perfect, they are far, far better, and i think most people who paid attention would say that the play in colombia was success. nothing is 100% successful and the challenge-- many challenges still remain and the president duque has made more for the eradication than his predecessor. do we need a plan central america or planned colombia, mr. chester. >> yes, we can start and others can add. you're actually right on the
success of playing colombia many and i think it was two things, the eradication of coca, to the machine manifestation of the problem and for the forces to be able to deal with the problem on the ground. what we have in mexico is the merit initiative. and the merit initiative is the primary vehicle it's by the department of state with four pillars in order to build strong institutions, strong communities, and go after transnational crime. since its inception almost ten years ago, the merit initiative funding 1.3 billion to the government of mexico and it's made a substantial difference in mexico's capabilities to be able to deal with this problem as a partner. a lot of the activities that we have with the government of mexico in terms of the
professionalization of their military forces, the training and capacity building for their police, all the way to things like prison reform and trans transitioning to the new, and through the merit initiative, that's an important component of what we're doing with mexico. it's not exact analogous, but follows the model of handling it on the ground and building the capacity of forces themselves. >> any of the rest of you have a comment about that, chief? >> just to comment, sir. you're exactly right. working with our partners in central america is key. we continue to expand our footprint to assist, whether it's in this case talking about the cartels and the narcotics that are coming into this country. we rely heavily on our relationships, much like we do
in mexico, it's critical can that we do continue to expand in central america, as well. >> i would just echo what has been said. i think the bilateral relationships and partnerships that we're able to develop and really lead to a joint focus, integrated effort to address the threats, and things like the merit initiative and others that really do bring a coalition together in order to build capacity, as well as strengthen those relationships and partnerships, so while you're working the investigations on one hand, you're increasing your prosecutorial capacity, so it really does provide a mechanism in order to further strengthen those joints bilateral efforts on a joint prosecutorial objective. >> i share your support for the merit initiative and hope we can do more amidst what is pretty gloomy news in terms of
how much geography in mexico that the cartels control and the level of violence in mexico that president lopez obrador was going to be one of his top priorities. we've actually seen more people die of violence in mexico since 2007 than have died in the wars in afghanistan and iraq combined. i remember what happened after 9/11 when 3000 americans died in new york in washington d.c. at the pentagon. we went to war against al qaeda and the taliban. but 72,000-- or roughly 70,000 americans died from drug overdose, all of this flood of heroin and methamphetamine coming across the border, just doesn't seem like our-- it seems like we've become desensitized to the outrage that that really represents and the threat it represents to our national security. so, i know senator feinstein, obviously, coming from a border
state, has talked to me about working on something like central american plan. i know president obama under his administration had a plan to try to support the triangle of countries in central america. i know we need to figure out if something more than sending money, we need to find out what works and that's the reason why i mentioned planned colombia. i think there is a lot of interest. on the bright side, amidst as i said a pretty gloomy prospect in terms of central america and in large parts of mexico, i was encouraged to see what the incoming administration and mexico, i would happen to be down there for the inauguration of president lopez obrador and i know that secretary nielsen and others have been directly negotiating with the incoming administration on how to deal with the asylum issue. mexico, for the first time, to my knowledge, has begun issuing work permits and offering asylum in mexico. of course, many of these
individuals want to be reunited with their family in the united states, so they're turning that down and saying i'm going to go to the united states, but the agreement to allow those claims to be processed, while the applicants remain in mexico, i think, represents a major change in policy and perhaps will provide some level of deterrents to the efforts many make and come from central america across mexico and the united states. do you have an opinion on that or chief provost, could you perhaps provide color for what i've tried to describe? >> no, certainly, senator, our relationship with mexico right now is-- has been an outstanding relationship and considering all that we are dealing with on our shared border, it is critical going forward that we continue down that path with the relationship we have. our partners in mexico have been doing as much as they can with the limited resources that they have as well and have been
great partners. >> well, given our history with mexico, they're a little skeptical of the united states, as you can imagine. we've taken a substantial piece of mexico and made it texas and other parts of the southwest, and i agree with the characterization you and mr. chester have made that this has to be a shared responsibility because i think trying to do this to our friends in mexico or for them, would not be well-received so i'm actually encouraged by seeing this very modest step in terms of the asylees, the asylum claims. i hope that we can develop programs that we can work on together and would welcome any inputs, insights, advice, that you might give us in doing that. senator durbin. >> thanks, mr. chairman. chief provost, how important is the export of firearms and drug money from the united states to
the mexican cartels to their continued existence? >> well, so certainly, senator durbin, the money, as you mentioned earlier, that is going back into mexico and into the hands of the cartels, it is of great concern for us, as well as the weapons. we do run operations along the border routinely. we work-- we do bilateral operations with our partners along the mexican border, as well as outbound operations to do our best with the resources that we have to address the issue. >> let me be more specific. how frequently are vehicles travelling southbound across the border through ports of entry, checked for illegally exported weapons? >> i would have to defer to my partners in the office of field operations for exact numbers on that. >> could you deter to them and we'll get back too that. >> yes, sir. >> is that a priority.
>> it is a priority. >> you've witnessed the seizure of weapons headed from the united states down to mexico? >> yes, yes, i have and my border patrol agents assist with outbound operations on numerous occasions and we've seized weapons and we've seized money going south. you might have heard my earlier testimony with c-portles, are you familiar with that technology? >> yes, we utilize those in the border patrol. >> pretty amazing, could you describe it to the committee. >> it's nonintrusive, supports our ability to inspect vehicles and cargo coming through the port of enand check points. >> it's kind of like an x-ray or scanning device. >> yes. >> nonintruns seive. >> nonintrusive. >> what do you learn from that technology? >> that technology helped us in seizures at the ports of entry and between the ports much entry. the technology is one capability that-- or one resource that we utilize
in our tool kit to support our efforts as we do our best to address the issue of all of the narcotics coming across the bore did he ever. >> are you troubled by the fact that fewer than one in five vehicles are subject to that scanning as they head north? >> i can't speak to the exact numbers, sir, that are scanned at our ports of entry. i would take that as i get back with my partners in office of field operations. i do know that they do have-- they continue to expand the amount of technology that they are deploying at the ports of entry and they continue to request more of that technology. >> my guess and you'd deter to your field people again, if they can he will it us their numbers. we have 18% of vehicles searched by this nonintrusive scanning device and a request from, at least even last year, if that was his highest priority and why we included it in our bill. my guess is those vehicles headed southbound, even fewer are scanned for weapons headed from the united states down to
these mexican cartels and i'd like you to be able to produce, if you can, information on c-po c-portals, used for weapons and contraband from the united states to the cartels. i'll take that. >> and mr. -- am i pronouncing your name correctly? good. you had testimony, you said in your testimony, seizures of smuggled bulk cash decreased from 437 million in 2016 to 193 million to 2017. that means the smuggled bulk cash, which we assume is somehow associated with drug trafficking, decreased by 56%. you also say that the gross amount of bulk cash seized steadily decreased since 2010. to what attribute this decrease
and is it a sign that cartels found a more sophisticated way to transfer their laundered money? >> i think one thing i'd like to highlight is the significant efforts that are being undertaken in order to investigate money laundering and the transfer of illicit proceeds. there are many different tactics and techniques that the cartels use and we, likewise, are available to utilize several investigative tools. i think there are, obviously, a lot of efforts being made to continue to identify the bulk currency that is being moved south. we also nerecognize additional technologies and currencies implemented by some of the trafficking organizations in particular, as it's going-- >> the point i want to get to is the one i opened up with. what i've just described, scanning these vehicles as they're coming into the united states, 18% are being scanned. scanning the vehicles that are headed south, from the united
states, with weapons, contraband, money. having the means to deal with the technology by which they are now transferring this laundered drug money back into the cartels to make the next round of narcotics and strengthen themselves has nothing to do with the wall, nothing to do with a wall. sign me up for more money to address the things i've just described to you. don't sign me up for a $5 billion wall na that was supposed to be paid for by mexico. >> could i ask one last-- >> senator durbin, i would like too response to that, smuggling car services and exploitation of financial systems, using funnel accounts, correspondent banking and financial fraud and money laundering, stored value cards and a significant increase in mountain
laundering, using cryptocurrency, and we've more that be doubled our seizures since last year and seen a lot of chinese tco's that are obtaining financial contracts to launder narcotics proceeds from mexico tco's and traditional methods such as money pickups and then structuring through casinos and bank wires. and seeing of concern to us and investing chinese counter fitted foreign documents, they're shipped in bulk to mexico and they're provided to tco's, to create financial accounts or to register businesses, which makes it more difficult to see true beneficial ownership. >> what you're telling me is the sophistication of this money goes way beyond bulk cash and they're smart enough to know it's not working well. >> absolutely. >> we've got to be just as smart with the right technology. thank you, mr. chairman for your willingness to say a word
here. when i went to that postal facility at o'hare airport, those are good people doing the best they can. you wouldn't believe the junk that comes through the mail into the united states and a lot of it is trash and junk some of it has to be carefully inspected because it contains narcotics, fentanyl and the rest. we need a lot more people, that's not a wall. it's putting in technology and personnel to effectively deal with the threats to the yeets and i think fentanyl is one of the most dangerous. >> chief, let me start on this, the last point that my friend and colleague senator durbin made. are there some places along the border where a physical barrier makes sense as part of the system. >> yes, senator, certainly are. >> as i recall 2006 congress passed on a bipartisan basis, a secure fence act, 700 miles of
fence and passed and bipartisan basis. has most much that been constructed. >> yes, the vast majority has. >> so in some places physical barrier does make sense, just to make that points. >> yes, it does and if i may. >> yes. >> in relation to technology and personnel are definitely necessary as well, but one does not replace the other. we need the ability to impede and deny. the technology helps us on detection and of course, our men and women there support our efforts when it comes to having enough people to make the apprehension or make the seizure. i would liken it to the ringing door bell. the door bell is great technology and the ability to see somebody come up to steal a package off your porch.
it doesn't stop them from stealing it from your porch. en you need impedence and denial and you need the law enforcement to makes the arrest and seizure. >> thank you for that. so i want people to understand, i think every one of us are-- have some sympathy and certainly empathize with people who are experiencing violence or lack of economic opportunity, jobs, in their home countries. and who want a better life. that's just the human condition. but are the same people, the same narco traffickers, the same human traffickers, the same people who facilitate the transit of migrants from central america through mexico into the united states, are they the same ones that are importing heroin and methamphetamine into the united states? >> the cartels own the plazas
and run the areas along the entire border and they may not always be the ones that are moving them through, however, the alien smuggling organizations have to pay a fee to move people through those areas, so they work hand in hand with each other. and if i may just address the fact that, senator, you mentioned it before, the very dynamic situation when it comes to the people. i've said this before and i'll say it again. our men and women do not check their humanity at the door. they have a very tough job to do, a very tough mission dealing with humanitarian and law enforcement mission and i'm proud of what they do. >> thank you for saying that, i think you speak for all of us. but the point i want to make the same transnational organizations that traffic in drugs and traffic in women and
children for sex slavery, are the same ones that move the migrants across the border from central america, correct? >> they certainly have involvement in the movement of the migrants, yes, sir. >> and it's all about the money, right? >> it is. >> it's part of their business model. >> it is and as i stated in my opening statement, unfortunately they do not treat the migrants, the people, any different than they do the drugs or the money. >> and to senator durbin's point, the same technology that the commissioner talked about yesterday that you were discussing that can identify the movement of people, drugs, and other contraband coming north, if there was sufficient numbers of them and we have the infrastructure in place that could allow it, that could also scan vehicles heading south, containing bulk cash and weapons, is that correct? >> yes, there is the potential to use it in that as well. >> as i understand it, the priority has been on traffic
coming north because we're talking about the drugs, again, and the other contraband and illegal immigration, and so there hasn't been deployed the sort of resources in terms of manpower or technology for traffic heading south? >> my colleagues specifically at the ports of entry. my colleagues, as you both know, have a very difficult mission in that they have a law enforcement mission, but also a mission to facilitate lawful travel and trade. and they focus their resources, of course, on inbound, however, they do deploy as much as they can to outbound operations as well. but they have to have priorities given limited resources? >> yes, senators. >> and you've answered this at another hearing at another time, but i want to reiterate this. the caravans of migrants that are showing up at the bridge in tijuana and which are showing
up every day in what i would call a mini caravan, roughly 400,000 people detained at the southwestern border in fiscal year 2017. tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and family units, do the cartels use them as a strategic diversion so that they can then tie up border patrol and other law enforcement authorities and then use that gap to exploit the importation of illegal drugs in the united states? >> yes, senator, that is a tactic that they have used over the years, and certainly with the influx that we're having in regard to this humanitarian issue, they most certainly use that as a diversion for us as my men and women are spending a large majority of their time dealing with the humanitarian effort, it takes them away from their border security mission and the cartels and tco's know that and use it to their
advantage. >> miss ayala, this is my final question. senator durbin was describing how creative-- and you were discussing how creative the cartels have gotten to with money laundering, that it's not just bulk cash coming through the southern border, through other entities. is it possible for the cartels and other criminal organizations simply to wire money back to mexico and central america? because without identifying who is sending it, in other words, are there other tools or authorities that our law enforcement agencies need in order to stop that? is that a problem? . reason i ask, i note tens of billions of dollars of remittances are sent each year from the united states back to the home countries of people who have come to the united states and i had i just want to ask you whether that's a vulnerability in terms of creative money laundering or
wiring money back to the home country? >> i think one of the-- the biggest as far as mountain laundering is concerned. is the banking, depositing under a bank account or a bank instead of the name after business which is happening in many high profile cases that we're working. the trade-based money laundering, having the tools to really work on commercial fraud and making that a priority as much of the money that's laundered is laundered through legitimate trade. they're involved in cryptocurrency as we talked about, and some of the lack of transparency and beneficial ownership as far as corporations, makes it difficult for us to really acertain what true ownership is in a business and able to seize assets. i think of capacity building with partners in training and the capacity for financial
investigative efforts and the ability to engage in asset forfeiture would give us the bigge bigge biggest bang for our buck. >> senator durbin. >> thank you for being here and providing answers for further thought. there's another vote on and we'll excuse the first panel and go vote and take up the second panel. thank you, we'll be in adjournment. [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]