GOP lawmakers falsely claim Biden is empowering drug cartels

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Their claims aren't exactly based in reality.

Republican lawmakers are circulating false talking points about President Joe Biden's immigration policies, suggesting that his approach, which is far less aggressive than Donald Trump's, is somehow empowering drug cartels at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Thursday, Sen. James Lankford (OK) tweeted, "On day one Biden rolled back policies from President Trump that strengthened our security & stabilized our border. Instead, he implemented policies that encourage human trafficking & empower drug cartels."

"The Biden administration has abdicated the responsibility of controlling our southern border," Texas Rep. Pat Fallon tweeted on Thursday, adding a video of his interview on the conservative OANN-TV. "They've given it to the drug cartels."

"It's disgusting," Fallon added in a separate April 27 tweet, claiming Biden was allowing cartels full run of the border.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy got in on the action as well, tweeting that same day, "Unaccompanied children, terrorists, and drugs from the cartels are pouring into the United States," along with a video of him addressing the Congressional Institute and calling the Biden administration's actions laughable.

Those claims are not based in reality.

The Biden administration has, for months now, been working to take down drug cartels both directly and through a slate of progressive immigration orders and policies.

On April 12, Special Assistant to the President for Immigration for the Domestic Policy Council Tyler Moran told MSNBC that the Biden administration had secured agreements with Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala to deploy more troops to their respective borders, in order to control the flow of immigration.

"[They] have all agreed to do this. That not only is going to prevent the traffickers, and the smugglers, and cartels that take advantage of the kids on their way here, but also to protect those children," Moran said.

Biden's discretionary budget request sent to Congress on April 9 also included around $1.2 billion for border infrastructure, an investment that "would facilitate more robust and effective security screening to guard against human smuggling and trafficking, the movement of illicit drugs and weapons, the entry of undocumented migrants, and the import of unlawful goods."

On April 1, the Biden administration released a statement of drug policy priorities for year one outlining interagency plans to combat the supply and flow of opioids into the United States. Their efforts include supporting law enforcement through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, and task forces to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations, among other things.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data for fiscal years 2018 to 2021 also refutes Republican claims that drugs are pouring across the border. Rather, the data revealed that, under Biden, drug seizures are significantly lower than they were at various times throughout the Trump administration.

In March, CBP seized 54,672 pounds of drugs compared to 106,006 pounds seized in 2018 under Trump. CBP seized between 5,000 and 6,000 pounds of heroin from 2018 to 2020, while that figure dropped to 2,636 in 2021. The highest amount seized over the past four years was 122,147 pounds of drugs in 2019.

And on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced "Operation Sentinel," a multiagency crackdown on international criminal organizations that smuggle immigrants into the country.

As cartels control many of the transportation methods at the border, human smuggling organizations often pay them to traffic immigrants as well, according to Border Report.

"Transnational criminal organizations put profit over human life, with devastating consequences," Mayorkas said in a statement. "We aim to cut off access to that profit by denying these criminals the ability to engage in travel, trade, and finance in the United States. We intend to disrupt every facet of the logistical network that these organizations use to succeed."

The anti-smuggling operation will target smuggling organizations' members, associates, and assets, according to DHS. Actions to stop the drug cartels include revocation of travel documents, suspension and debarment of trade entities, and freezing of bank accounts or financial assets.

CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Citizenship and Immigration Services, the State Department, FBI, and Drug Enforcement Administration will collaborate on the effort.

"Smuggling operations continue to lie and exploit vulnerable populations to promote their criminal enterprise — the health and safety of migrants does not influence their lucrative ambition," acting CBP commissioner Troy Miller said in the DHS announcement. "Our goal is to enhance the security of the U.S. border and help save the lives of those who are preyed upon by these unscrupulous criminals."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.