Cuellar: Cartels may be behind immigrant surge
Congressman sees possible ploy to overwhelm Border Patrol
SAN ANTONIO – After visiting Saturday with some of unaccompanied children flooding the Rio Grande Valley, Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Dist. 27, said cartels may be behind the surge of young immigrants and families from Central America.
Cuellar said when he asked them how they came, "Most of them say, 'It wasn't my decision. It was the smuggling organization that got us up here.'"
He said drug cartels control human smuggling operations.
Knowing many Central American immigrants are trying to escape political turmoil and violence, Cuellar said smugglers could be using them as a ploy to overwhelm Border Patrol.
He said agents now report spending 40 per cent of their time dealing with illegal immigrants.
Cuellar said smugglers may be taking advantage of that by possibly having more freedom to move drug shipments.
"It's the smuggling organizations making those decisions. They know exactly what they're doing," Cuellar said.
Speaking in his San Antonio district office, Cuellar also was critical of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for not earlier disclosing the return of "catch and release."
In the past, he said Mexican nationals would be returned to a port of entry.
He said by now, Central Americans know, "If you're a mother with children, you're being released at a bus station, in the thousands, not in the hundreds, in the thousands."
He said they are given documents promising they'll appear before an immigration judge, but most never do.
Cuellar also he was told by Border Patrol agents, "We cannot enforce our way out of this crisis."
He said, "When our men and women in green say that's not the answer, that's very significant."
Cuellar said he is reaching out to Central American ambassadors. He said they plan to launch a media blitz next month in hopes of discouraging others from coming to the U.S.
Cuellar said the Obama administration has committed $2.3 billion toward helping the thousands of children who came this far.
But Cuellar said he will ask FEMA director Craig Fugate to change rules prohibiting private donations at government-run shelters due to security concerns.
He said, "Why are we letting taxpayer dollars pay for all this, if you have the generosity of churches and non-profits ready to do that?"
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