First-ever ‘Whole-of-DHS’ report on US threats released

Washington D.C.

Mexican drug cartels 'co-opt' local and state governments along Southwest border, trafficking humans and dangerous drugs, report says

DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf is seen with Border Patrol agents on Nov. 21, 2019, touring an area south of Donna, Texas, where a new section of border wall was being built. (Border Report File Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The acting head of the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday issued the first-ever “Homeland Threat Assessment” report on the state of security of the United States, detailing illegal immigration, cyber threats, COVID-19, violent extremism and drug cartels as among the top threats to the nation.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf prefaced the 26 page report by writing in the introduction that it is for the entire American public to read, so they can understand the daily threats his agents face.

It “is as close as the American people will get to seeing and understanding the information that I see as Secretary and that our employees see in their national security missions. As you read through the HTA you should have faith in knowing that these threats were identified using the best intelligence, operational information, and employee knowledge available to the Department,” Wolf wrote. “The result is a ‘Whole-of-DHS’ report on the threats to the Homeland.”

These threats were identified using the best intelligence, operational information, and employee knowledge available.”

DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf

The report “draws upon all sources of information and expertise available,” he wrote. This includes information from intelligence officers, law enforcement agencies and operational units.

Top security threats to the American public include:

  • Cyber-hacking by China and Russia and Iran, which threatens the 2020 presidential election.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Domestic Violent Extremists presenting, such as white supremacist organizations
  • Illegal immigrants coming from Central and South America.
  • Natural disasters, like wildfires and hurricanes, that are hurting local economies.
  • Transnational criminal organizations (TCO), and specifically Mexico-based drug cartels, which pose “the greatest TCO threat to the homeland.”

The report says Mexican-based TCOs “represent an acute and devastating threat to public health and safety.” It cites over 71,000 drug overdoses in the United States in 2019 and says TCOs “foment corruption, and destroy confidence in the international banking system.”

These organizations operate human trafficking chains that bring in illegal migrants “and attempt to exploit legal immigration avenues,” the report says.

The biggest threat by drug cartels “is their ability to control territory — including along the U.S. Southwest border — and co-opt parts of government, particularly at a state and local level, the report says. The Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation Cartel networks “post the greatest cross-border drug smuggling threat” as they “dominate” the trafficking of cocaine and other drugs.

Drug cartels operate large human smuggling rings on the Southwest land border “and have tradditionally taxed human smugglers and traffickers to move migrants through their areas of operation.”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the report cites that drug cartels and coyote traffickers have continued to move undocumented migrants, which threaten local border communities and DHS agents.

“Many victims never seek assistance from law enforcement because of language barriers, fear of retaliation from their traffickers and/or fear of law enforcement. This allows traffickers to force victims into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. Traffickers continue to target people they believe to be susceptible for a wide variety of reasons,” the report says.

The report acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how the Trump administration is admitting asylum-seekers who seek to lawfully cross at land ports. Since March, all land ports have been closed to anyone not considered an “essential” worker. And all U.S. immigration court cases have been indefinitely postponed.

The report predicts that the pandemic “increases the chance of a mass migration event from Cuba or Haiti.”

A surge in illegal immigration activity at the Southwest border “will require United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to re-examine how resources are properly aligned at the Southwest Border, likely impacting the larger asylum system,” it states.

Furthermore, the report is critical of a “lack of bipartisan support of detention measures” and “budgetary impediments towards immigration” that it says “continue to undermine U.S. immigration enforcement policies.”

This is despite billions of dollars that Congress has appropriated at the Trump administration’s request to build a nearly 2,000-mile-long border wall along the Southwest border.

A newly built section of border wall on 23rd Street in McAllen, Texas, is seen earlier this month. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report)

“High volume of illegal immigration, including unprecedented numbers of family units and unaccompanied alien children arrivals, stretch government resources, and create a humanitarian and border security crisis that cripples the immigration system,” the report states.

However, migrant advocates point out that since the coronavirus pandemic began and the Trump administration enacted Title 42 — barring travelers from crossing at land ports to stop the spread of the virus — the expulsion of migrants has been rapid, and agency officials have admitted that they are not being held in detention facilities.

U.S. Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz last month came to South Texas and told Border Report that the expulsion of thousands of migrants, many children, during this COVID-19 pandemic is swift, “quick processing,” often within hours, and they are then taken back to Mexico. “This allows us to minimize the exposure to our workforce and to the communities and be able to repatriate and expel these individuals back to Mexico,” Ortiz said.

Those who have gotten past Border Patrol checkpoints, the report warns, should note that interior raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will soon begin in the interior. “As the pandemic subsides, ICE will conduct additional enforcement operations to uphold its public safety mission and address the growing fugitive backlog,” the report said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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The mission of is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.