Sat, Nov 18, 2023 6:00 AM
By Casey Harper, The Center Square
President Joe Biden is under fire after a new report that the number of illegal immigrants caught by the Coast Guard trying to enter the U.S has doubled in recent years.
That data came from Heather MacLeod, director of Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office during a hearing last week.
"The Coast Guard interdicted more than 12,000 migrants in both fiscal year 2022 and 2023 – more than double the fiscal year 2021 total, according to Coast Guard data," MacLeod said in prepared testimony.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., responded to The Center Square’s reporting on the increased interdictions, saying President Joe Biden’s immigration policies are endangering U.S. servicemembers.
"Historic numbers of encounters at our Southwest border are certainly the main driver of this unprecedented crisis, but they aren’t the only one," Green told The Center Square. "Illegal aliens also try to take advantage of America’s maritime borders. This route is incredibly dangerous for not only the aliens, but also the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Air and Marine Operations officers tasked with interdicting the flow of illegal immigration and deadly narcotics along these routes."
Green blasted Biden for the illegal immigration crisis, which has soared since Biden took office with about ten million illegal immigrants entering the U.S. since January of 2021.
"Every day, the Coast Guard plays a crucial role in securing our waterways, and it is unconscionable that Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden continue to make their job harder through their policies of mass catch-and-release that have encouraged more individuals to attempt this route, and emboldened the cartels to traffic more drugs," Green said.
MacLeod said the U.S. should expect that number to rise. While land crossings make up the vast majority of migrant crossings, water transport could allow groups to ship bigger quantities of illicit drugs.
"Every year, thousands of people attempt to migrate via maritime routes, many utilizing services of organized smuggling operations and often in dangerously overloaded, unseaworthy, or otherwise unsafe vessels," Rear Admiral Jo-Ann Burdian, Assistant Commandant for Response Policy (CG-5R) for the U.S. Coast Guard, testified at the same hearing. "Many of the migrant interdiction cases handled by the Coast Guard begin as search and rescue missions.
"The Coast Guard employs cutters, boats, fixed-wing aircraft, and helicopters to identify and interdict migrant vessels as far from U.S. shores as possible," Burdian added.
In one 2021 case, the Department of Justice announced that six Colombian nationals had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use "narco-submarines" to ship nearly 20,000 kilos of cocaine to the Sinola Cartel in the U.S.
MacLeod testified that the number of migrants attempting to enter the U.S. by sea will likely continue to rise.
"From fiscal years 2011 through 2020, drug interdiction accounted for 13 percent of [the U.S. Coast Guard’s] estimated operating expenses, migrant interdiction 8 percent, and other law enforcement 2 percent, which includes preventing IUU fishing," MacLeod said. "The operating expenses of these three missions annually averaged more than $1.5 billion over this time period."
The U.S. Coast Guard works with DHS and the Department of Defense to stop the flow of illicit drugs into the U.S..
Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster, R-Fla., led the hearing this week and pointed out the dangers to the migrants attempting these water voyages as well as the Americans being poisoned by drugs like fentanyl, which has killed tens of thousands of Americans in recent years.
"The Coast Guard is our nation's premier maritime law enforcement agency and is actively engaged in countering illicit maritime activity," Webster said in his opening remarks at the hearing. "This includes stopping the flow of illegal drugs to our shores, interdicting illegal maritime migration, and protecting the environment through efforts to curb illegal fishing."