While Mexican drug cartels seize unprecedented control of the southwest border, the frontline Homeland Security agency charged with safeguarding the U.S. fails to regularly conduct outbound inspections that could disrupt the Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCO). The checks for traffic departing the country at ports of entry (POE) would be detrimental to the illicit operations because they prevent illegal exportation of currency, firearms, explosives, ammunition, and narcotics. Nevertheless, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) does not consistently inspect outbound traffic, according to a federal audit that reveals there is no structural outbound inspection with oversight from the agency’s Office of Field Operations (OFO).
“TCOs require a steady supply of firearms and ammunition to assert control over the territory where they operate, eliminate rival criminal organizations, and resist government operations,” says the report, released this month by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. “Further, bulk cash smuggling remains a favored means for TCOs to repatriate their illicit funds from or move funds into the United States to support their criminal operations. TCO networks on the Southwest border smuggle narcotics into the United States, while illegally exporting currency from drug proceeds and firearms into Mexico.” Operations are not limited to the Mexican border, the DHS watchdog writes, confirming that TCO networks also use the northern border to smuggle high-potency drugs and currency both into and out of the United States.
Federal law authorizes CBP to seize illegally transported firearms, ammunition, explosives, narcotics, and currency out of the United States. Statistics provided in the report show that it is an effective way to disrupt TCO operations. For instance, between 2018 and 2022, agents seized $58 million in illegal currency and 2,306 firearms. It demonstrates the value of outbound inspections to CBP’s mission, which is to protect the American people, safeguard our borders and enhance the nation’s economic prosperity. However, agency policies do not require outbound inspections though officers at some land border crossings perform them on personal vehicles and pedestrians departing the U.S. In most locations CBP officers are not conducting outbound inspections, the DHS watchdog found, determining that the agency is “missing opportunities to stop currency, firearm, explosives, ammunition, and narcotics from reaching TCOs that perpetrate cross-border violence.”
CBP is responsible for 167 land crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border, which stretches nearly 2,000 miles and Canada, the world’s longest international border with 5,525 miles. Investigators from the DHS IG’s office visited 108 of them during their probe. “We found the frequency of outbound inspections, inspection techniques, technology, and infrastructure in outbound inspection areas varied significantly between the two borders and among land border crossings,” they write in their report. “These inconsistencies occurred because there is no structured outbound inspection program with oversight from OFO headquarters.” Additionally, the agency does not have performance metrics to measure the impact of widespread outbound inspections or a comprehensive outbound inspection policy.
The report comes just weeks after congressional testimony from federal sources in counterterrorism, intelligence and drug enforcement exposed how the Biden administration’s reckless open border policies have greatly facilitated the business model of TCOs. Mexican drug cartels have seized unprecedented control of the nation’s southwest border, the congressional hearing determined. Days earlier at a separate and equally alarming congressional hearing, another group of law enforcement sources confirmed that Mexican TCOs are successfully smuggling mass quantities of deadly illicit fentanyl past Border Patrol agents and CBP officers into the U.S. Federal authorities can hardly afford to miss opportunities, such as conducting outbound inspections, that can disrupt cartel operations.