McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz earlier this week grilled Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for two minutes on wristbands that he says drug cartels use to mark the migrants they are illegally crossing from Mexico into the United States.

This was in reference to the same wristbands that Border Report two years ago reported were heavily found in the Rio Grande Valley, worn by family units after they crossed the Rio Grande into South Texas from northern Mexico.

“Along the southern border, you see thousands of these wristbands because the illegal immigrants wear them,” Cruz said during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., in front of a giant poster with blown up colorful wristbands of purple, yellow, orange and white.

In this 12-photo composite photographed on Saturday, March 27, 2021, used bracelets lie on the ground after they were cast off by migrants once they arrived on U.S. soil in Roma, Texas, near the banks of the Rio Grande river. All of the arriving migrants wear numbered plastic wristbands that look like they could be used to get into a concert or amusement park, and everyone rips them off and tosses them on the ground after setting foot in the U.S. Large black letters on the wristbands read, “Entregas,” or “Deliveries,” apparently a mechanism for smugglers to keep track of migrants they are ferrying across the river that separates Texas and Mexico. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)

“Every color corresponds to how many thousands of dollars they owe the cartels. You have turned these cartels into multibillion-dollar criminal organizations. And these are modern-day leg irons because these are children being sold into sex slavery,” Cruz said.

When asked about the wristbands, Mayorkas responded: “I don’t know what they are.”

That brought a tirade of criticism from Cruz who told Mayorkas, “You’re incompetent at your job.”

“Mr. Secretary, I want to say to you right now it is your behavior is disgraceful. And the deaths the children assaulted the children and raped, they are at your feet. And if you had integrity, you would resign,” Cruz said.

A wristband worn by a migrant brought illegally from Mexico into La Joya, Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

When given the chance to later respond by the committee chairman, Mayorkas refused calling Cruz’ comments “revolting.”

The wristbands — like the kind given for carnival rides, or entrance to nightclubs or concerts — often bear the words “llegadas,” which means arrivals in Spanish; or “entregadas,” which mean delivered. Some read “entregas,” which mean deliveries.

The different wristband colors indicate how much they have paid; where they cross; if they have tried to cross before; and if this is their last time trying to get across without having to pay again, several officials have told Border Report.

It’s all part of a highly organized system the Mexican drug cartels use to mark and identify different groups of migrants they are smuggling into the United States.

A Border Patrol agent apprehends families of migrants on April 8, 2021, all who wore wristbands as they crossed into La Joya, Texas, from Reynosa, Mexico. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photos)

Since a surge of immigrant families began crossing illegally in 2019 from northern Mexico into the Rio Grande Valley, these wristbands have been commonly found in areas where routes are known to bring in smugglers. The bracelets would litter parks and areas where Border Patrol come across those readily giving themselves up to law enforcement and claiming asylum in the United States.

But on Friday, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said they aren’t seeing very many of these identifying bracelets anymore in the Border Patrol’s RGV Sector. And that could have to do with the fact that most migrants crossing illegally into this part of South Texas now are single adults, not families, who are crossing in other areas, like Del Rio and El Paso, Texas.

In February, there were a total of 114,189 encounters with undocumented migrants in the RGV Sector and 58%, or 67,241, were single adults. There were 23,756 families and 23,192 unaccompanied minors who crossed, according to CBP data.

That’s a huge change from the 489% increase in family units crossing into the RGV in Fiscal Year 2021 –over 52,000 — from Fiscal Year 2021, CBP reports.

And it’s significantly less than the 60,271 families that crossed into the El Paso Sector in February, or the 38,933 families who crossed into the Del Rio Sector in South Texas during that same time period, according to CBP.