The huge drop in illegal border crossings sparked by President Trump's get-tough policies has freed up immigration investigators to put the heat on criminal Mexican cartels and the result has been a surge in drug and gun seizures, according to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In an interview, Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that U.S. Border Patrol agents and ICE's Homeland Security Investigations teams have increased their time focused on the criminal gangs that profit off of illegal immigration and often use the same pathways to bring drugs and weapons across the border.
"Because the numbers are down, because of President Trump's policies on immigration enforcement at the border and specifically in the interior, now border control agents are catching more dope, more guns are being seized," said Homan.
And his HSI has increased its time spent on drug cases by 5 percent.
"This should be a celebration," said Homan.
Homan explained that at the peak of illegal immigration under former President Obama, federal agents spent much more of their time caring for and processing the undocumented who were somewhat protected under the Obama policies.
Now that border crossings have plummeted, there's more time for law enforcement.
"There's less time dealing with families and kids, and illegal aliens, they've got more time for the other border security efforts like drug enforcement," he said.
"Cartels are smart. During FY14 when these kids and families were coming in, border agents were being tied up with these families for hours, whether they're changing diapers, feeding these kids, and dealing with the families, and now these border patrol agents are spending less time dealing with that, now there's more time to really secure the border and other areas, in drug smuggling, weapons smuggling," said Homan.
"So we're arresting more drugs, were catching more drugs because they're not sneaking around the back side while we're dealing with what people call illegal immigration," he added.
The "service" #humansmugglers provide is #cruel, #inhumane & #barbaric. They endanger ppls lives & lead them to their deaths. #unscrupulous https://t.co/E5lSOJfvAZ— US Border Patrol (@USBP_HonorFirst) July 11, 2017
And he said that shutting down the cartels and human smuggling is a benefit to the immigrants because it takes them out of danger and into a legal pathway into the U.S.
"People think it's just innocent immigrants coming up here to get a better life. But they don't realize that there is a flipside to that coin. Because they hire smugglers to bring them through Central America into the United States. These same smuggling organizations, criminal organizations, use the same illicit pathways to smuggle dope, smuggle weapons, smuggle people who want to do harm to this country, they don't care what they smuggle. They're all about making the dime," said Homan.
He recalled several cases of immigrants being raped, extorted for more money and killed in the process.
"Unless we enforce the laws in a meaningful way, and be serious about it, we're just bankrolling these criminal organizations. These criminal organizations are taking advantage of these people," said Homan.
Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org