Hearing Statement: “Securing the Border: Assessing the Impact of Transnational Crime”

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held the hearing, “Securing the Border: Assessing the Impact of Transnational Crime”. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del), as prepared for delivery:

“Last week, we heard from several people who live and work along the southwest border about some of the border security challenges that impact their communities. Today, we will continue that conversation and dig even deeper into the transnational crime that occurs along our borders and throughout our country.

“Over the course of the last several years, I have made a number of trips to both our southern and northern borders. Most recently, I had the pleasure of joining our Chairman and Senator Sasse on a trip to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. During these trips, we saw first-hand the dedication and expertise of the men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day to keep our borders secure.

And because of the efforts of these brave men and women, along with the quarter of a trillion dollars that American taxpayers have spent on border security over the last ten years, we have made significant progress in securing our borders. In fact, I appreciated General McCaffrey pointing out in his testimony that ‘by many measures, the U.S. – Mexico border is more secure that it has ever been.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Since 2003, for example, we have more than doubled the size of the Border Patrol. We have constructed more than 600 miles of new fencing, and deployed sophisticated cameras, sensors, and radars across much of our border with Mexico. Today, we are deploying drones and aerostats high in the sky, as well as fixed and mobile observation towers, providing situational awareness for our agents on the ground.

“Yet, while many border communities are among the safest towns in America, we know that there is still much work to be done. And, we know that transnational criminal organizations are a real danger. Transnational crime, however, isn’t a just border issue. It’s much broader than that. It is a national security issue, and it’s an issue that touches all of our communities.

“For example, transnational crime can touch our friends and family in the form of drug addiction. It can victimize thousands who are brought into this country for sex trafficking or slave labor. It can hurt our businesses and bring crime and violence to our neighborhoods. And, it has the potential to bring national security threats to our borders, such as persons with possible terrorist ties.

“Today’s transnational criminal organizations are agile and global in reach, and they will do just about anything, and will stop at almost nothing, to carry out their illicit and very lucrative operations. So how do we disrupt and dismantle these criminal organizations?

“I believe we must continue to support the men and women combating these criminal networks along our borders and throughout our communities. As my colleagues have heard me say before, I’m a strong believer in providing our border personnel with ‘force multiplying’ technology that will help them do their jobs more effectively. We also need to share information – particularly intelligence – more efficiently so that we can act quickly and leverage resources across the federal, state, and local level.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about what tools and resources are needed to better secure both our southern and northern borders.

“That said, I believe our homeland defenses should not begin on the ‘one yard line’ of our borders, as General John Kelly, Commander of U.S. Southern Command and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson have stated before. In many cases, it should begin much farther away.

“Many of the criminal organizations that operate along our southwest border have roots deep inside Mexico and throughout Latin America. In parts of Central America, we know that gangs and other criminal organizations continue to threaten prosperity.  Some might even say they threaten democracy itself in the places where they operate.

“That is why it is so important that we seize this window of opportunity to help our neighbors in Central America grapple with a variety of security, governance and economic challenges. By doing so, we will address one of the root causes of transnational crime and enhance the security of our nation. We will be focusing on this issue at tomorrow’s hearing, so I will expand upon this topic much more at that time.

“Finally, I believe we can address transnational crime in one other very important way – and that is by confronting America’s insatiable appetite for illegal drugs. Our demand for illegal drugs fuels the power, impunity, and violence of criminal organizations around the globe. We must continue to focus on our nation’s addiction to drugs and continue to identify effective programs to reduce this crippling threat to our nation’s future.”