Surge in Migrant Smuggling and Drug Trafficking: U.S. Coast Guard Reports Doubling of Interceptions, US

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Updated: 4:32 AM, Wed November 15, 2023

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Surge in Migrant Smuggling and Drug Trafficking: U.S. Coast Guard Reports Doubling of Interceptions

Amidst growing concerns over the rise in small vessels smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants into the United States, lawmakers in the U.S. House held a hearing on Tuesday to address the alarming situation. During the hearing, an expert testified that the number of migrants caught by the U.S. Coast Guard has doubled in recent years, shedding light on the severity of the issue.

Heather MacLeod, the Director of Homeland Security and Justice at the Government Accountability Office, stated in her prepared testimony that the Coast Guard had interdicted over 12,000 migrants in both fiscal years 2022 and 2023. This number was more than double the total for fiscal year 2021, as revealed by Coast Guard data. MacLeod also warned that the U.S. should expect this number to continue rising. The influx of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. via the southern border has significantly increased since President Joe Biden assumed office. Utilizing water transport, criminal groups have the potential to smuggle larger quantities of drugs if they manage to go undetected.

Highlighting the grave nature of the issue, examples were shared during the hearing, such as the announcement made by the Department of Justice in 2021. The DOJ disclosed that six Colombian nationals had pleaded guilty to conspiring to use narco-submarines to smuggle nearly 20,000 kilos of cocaine to the Sinola Cartel.

The hearing, led by Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Daniel Webster, focused on examining the role of the U.S. Coast Guard in countering illicit maritime activities. Criminal organizations, including cartels, employ small vessels to transport drugs into the U.S., while migrants attempt perilous voyages in unseaworthy vessels.

Webster highlighted that 2023 witnessed a surge in fatalities involving makeshift vessels attempting to reach the U.S. mainland. He emphasized the Coast Guard’s crucial responsibility as the nation’s premier maritime law enforcement agency, actively engaged in halting the flow of illegal drugs, intercepting illegal maritime migration, and protecting the environment by curbing illegal fishing.

During her testimony, Rear Admiral Jo-Ann Burdian, the Assistant Commandant for Response Policy at the U.S. Coast Guard, echoed concerns about transnational criminal organizations and their significant role in fueling the American drug crisis. The devastating impact of fentanyl, resulting in tens of thousands of American deaths in recent years, prompted her to stress the urgent need to address the issue. She stated that these criminal organizations engage in trafficking drugs, weapons, wildlife, and humans, causing instability and violence in Central America, the Caribbean, and other regions. The illicit drugs intended for the United States have been ravaging American families and leading to unprecedented drug-related deaths. Furthermore, drug trafficking destabilizes nations in the region, undermines the rule of law, perpetuates threats to citizens, and drives migration to the U.S. for individuals, families, and unaccompanied children.

Aside from drug trafficking and illegal immigration, Webster also raised concerns regarding overfishing by unauthorized vessels, which is another issue that the Coast Guard must tackle. In 2020, the Coast Guard declared illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing as the leading global maritime security threat, replacing piracy. The consequences of this illegal activity include the depletion of fish stocks and significant financial losses amounting to tens of billions of dollars a year for legal fishing operators. Webster pointed out that China, known as the world’s biggest violator of IUU fishing, exacerbates these issues through its billion-dollar subsidies provided to its distant-water fishing fleet, enabling the exploitation of fishing stocks belonging to other nations.

The hearing illuminated the urgent need for comprehensive strategies and actions to counter the surge in both migrant smuggling and drug trafficking via small vessels. The U.S. Coast Guard holds a vital role in safeguarding maritime security and curtailing illicit activities that threaten the nation’s citizens, the environment, and the rule of law. By addressing these challenges head-on, a strong and coordinated international effort is necessary to combat criminal organizations and protect the well-being of both the United States and other nations affected by these illicit activities.

In conclusion, the rise in migrant smuggling and drug trafficking through small vessels has become a pressing issue that demands immediate attention. The U.S. Coast Guard’s role in countering these activities is crucial, given their expertise in maritime law enforcement. As countries work together to combat transnational criminal organizations, it is essential to prioritize the safety and security of citizens, prevent drug-related deaths, and protect the environment from illegal fishing practices. Effective measures and international cooperation are needed to address these challenges, ensuring a brighter and more secure future for all nations involved.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

What is the current situation regarding migrant smuggling and drug trafficking into the United States?

The United States is experiencing a surge in small vessels smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants. The U.S. Coast Guard has reported a doubling of interceptions in recent years, indicating the severity of the issue.

How many migrants have been caught by the U.S. Coast Guard in recent years?

According to the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted over 12,000 migrants in both fiscal years 2022 and 2023. This number is more than double the total for fiscal year 2021.

Why has there been an increase in illegal immigration attempts via water transport?

The influx of illegal immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. via the southern border has significantly increased since President Joe Biden assumed office. Criminal groups are utilizing water transport as it allows them to smuggle larger quantities of drugs if they manage to go undetected.

What are some examples of the severity of the issue?

During a hearing, the Department of Justice disclosed that six Colombian nationals had pleaded guilty to conspiring to use narco-submarines to smuggle nearly 20,000 kilos of cocaine to the Sinola Cartel. Additionally, 2023 witnessed a surge in fatalities involving makeshift vessels attempting to reach the U.S. mainland.

What is the U.S. Coast Guard's role in countering illicit maritime activities?

The U.S. Coast Guard is the nation's premier maritime law enforcement agency. They are actively engaged in halting the flow of illegal drugs, intercepting illegal maritime migration, and protecting the environment by curbing illegal fishing.

What are the concerns raised about transnational criminal organizations?

Rear Admiral Jo-Ann Burdian, the Assistant Commandant for Response Policy at the U.S. Coast Guard, highlighted the significant role of transnational criminal organizations in fueling the American drug crisis. These organizations engage in trafficking drugs, weapons, wildlife, and humans, causing instability and violence in Central America, the Caribbean, and other regions.

Are there other issues that the U.S. Coast Guard must tackle besides drug trafficking and illegal immigration?

Yes, the Coast Guard must also address overfishing by unauthorized vessels. This illegal activity is a global maritime security threat and leads to the depletion of fish stocks and significant financial losses for legal fishing operators.

What challenges need to be addressed in combating migrant smuggling and drug trafficking via small vessels?

The surge in these illicit activities calls for comprehensive strategies and actions. International cooperation and a strong effort are necessary to combat criminal organizations, protect citizens, prevent drug-related deaths, and safeguard the environment from illegal fishing practices.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson, a seasoned journalist and USA news expert, leads The Reportify's coverage of American current affairs. With unwavering commitment, he delivers up-to-the-minute, credible information, ensuring readers stay informed about the latest events shaping the nation. Michael's keen research skills and ability to craft compelling narratives provide deep insights into the ever-evolving landscape of USA news. He can be reached at michael@thereportify.com for any inquiries or further information.

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