With President Donald Trump talking about closing the U.S.-Mexico border, what is the current state of the crisis there? What role do violent cartels play in this crisis, and how do they exploit loopholes in America’s border security? And how does all of this affect everyday Americans living near the border?
Jan Jekielek: So, let’s dive right in and talk about the border. Your district is one of the southernmost districts in Texas. And recently, we’ve been talking about these almost extreme-sounding measures like actually closing the Mexican border. What are your thoughts on this?
Rep. Michael Cloud: Well, we definitely have a critical situation at the border. We knew that months ago—those of us who live in south Texas actually have known that for years—but it’s only escalated. Who would have thought that we’d have 100,000 migrants in a month come across the border last month—80,000 the month before that. We’re just not set up for that: We’re not staffed for that, we don’t have the resources for that. It’s a very critical situation that needs our attention here in Congress.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about your district specifically. It’s kind of interesting. It’s north-south; it’s a very long district relative to its width. And I understand it’s a corridor of sorts. I’ve heard the term “fatal funnel.” Can you expand on that?
Rep. Cloud: There’s a couple of highways, basically, that come from the Mexican border that travel through our district on their way to Houston where drugs, and kids, have been trafficked; unfortunately, the sex slaves often are dispersed throughout the nation. And that’s kind of the trade corridor.
The sheriffs in our district deal with that on a daily basis. I spoke with a rancher at the border a few weeks ago, who said, “I find dead bodies on my land all the time.” And so these cartels have been pushing this. They work almost as travel agents in a sense, going throughout the world recruiting people to come to the United States—selling them on the idea that, “Oh, just come across the border. It’ll be a nice, quick 30-minute to an hour walk, then you’ll be good and set to go.” And, of course, it’s not like that at all.
Many of them die in the Texas heat [while] many of them are abused by the cartels on the way here. Once they get here, [they’re] held for ransom. It’s just unconscionable that we’ve let this go on for so long.
Mr. Jekielek: Tell me about what you’ve learned about this sort of motivation of the cartels. Obviously, there’s some sort of financial arrangement to get people across, but there’s other issues as well, right, why they’re doing this.
Rep. Cloud: It’s about control, it’s about influence, it’s about money. To them, people who come across the border are dollar figures. They don’t care about individuals. Just a couple of weeks ago, Customs and Border Patrol released a video where cartel members dropped a couple of young ladies into razor wire at the border so that our Border Patrol would leave their post and go there to care for them. Our Customs and Border Patrol always prioritize life, and so whenever there is a situation where [a person’s] life is in danger, they always go to that.
But the cartels take advantage of that. And so, they’ll call in fake 911 calls in some areas because the only first responders there are Customs and Border Patrol and then send drugs up the other way. And this is a case where again, they dropped a couple of young ladies into razor wire and then once they left their posts, [were free to] filter humans and drugs through. This is what our inaction has caused to happen on the border.
Mr. Jekielek: It seems like this crisis is growing monthly, and why is it now that there’s arguments that this is somehow made up or not really a crisis? And from what you’re saying, it’s extremely serious. How do we make sense of all this?
Rep. Cloud: If we went there a few months ago, people who actually understand the situation who go there and who are honest about the situation know that it’s a crisis and we’re completely overwhelmed at the border.
I sat down with Border Patrol. We were going through just what’s happening. You have slide after slide of beheadings, bodies found in rivers wrapped in bubble wrap. You know, these horrendous things cartels are doing. And I asked him, “What’s the next stage for a win?” And they said the next win for us would be situational awareness. We’re not to the point [where] we’re even trying to mitigate the problem, stop the problem.
We’re just trying to get aware, an understanding, and not have enough resources to understand what the cartels are doing so we can have situational awareness. And this was when the caravans were only 10,000 people a month. And then it’s only escalated since then. We don’t have the immigration judges, we don’t have the beds, we don’t have the forces on the ground to deal with the situation. And so they’re taking advantage of it. They’re renting and buying buses and bringing people across Mexico to our border.
Mr. Jekielek: Is that part of the cartel pitch? “We’re overwhelming the border, so if you get through, you’re probably going to get released.”
Rep. Cloud: For them, it’s a numbers game. We’ll say, “Hey, we caught so much fentanyl or we caught so much drugs, or we found these many people in a certain situation. And for them, it’s the cost of doing business. They know we’re going to catch some of the drugs, they know. But, whether it’s a 3-to-1 or 10-to-1 ratio, we don’t know how much we’re not catching. We do know we’re probably not getting even half of it.
Mr. Jekielek: So you mentioned one example from your district. Do you have some other recent scenarios that you could tell us about what people have faced?
Rep. Cloud: We had a couple of people from our district in our office yesterday. They came here for a completely different issue. But as they were leaving, they just said, “What’s the situation on the border?” We had one of our clients there. Their daughter and son-in-law were taken by cartels and held for $50,000 ransom—and beaten up before they were returned. I talked to another one. They are like, “Yeah, a member of our family has some land on the border, and they’ve been told by the cartels, “You might want to stay off your land. We’re using it.” And so this is happening in the United States of America. You know, people’s property is …
Mr. Jekielek: And that’s even north of the border.
Rep. Cloud: This is north of the border—our side of the border. We’re about three to four hours from the border.
Mr. Jekielek: You’re saying they’re basically operating as far as four hours north of the border and so forth to do these things?
Rep. Cloud: They control the southern side of the border, and then they’re working their way into controlling as much as they can to get these horrendous things. Recently, there was enough fentanyl caught to kill millions of people in the United States. That’s what we caught.
We’re [also] seeing diseases that have pretty much been eradicated in the United States spring up again here [because of] the situation at the border. So it’s a national security crisis, it’s a health crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis. It needs to be addressed, and ultimately, we’ve got to think through how to heal the world. We cannot immigrate half the world’s population that lives in poverty to solve the world’s problems. We can’t.
I wish we could, but the thing we can do is be that shining city on the hill that our founders talked about. [We can] let people know that if you live by the same principles that this nation was founded on, you can have the same prosperity that this nation was founded on.
And I just imagine, what if 10,000 [or] 20,000 people marched on the capitol in their nation? They can enact the kind of change in their nation that would last for generations.
So, our hearts go out to people who are looking for economic prosperity, but that’s not what our asylum laws are for. There’s people who are really being persecuted throughout the world.
Mr. Jekielek: I don’t know the updated numbers when it comes to how many asylum cases actually turn out to be legitimate asylum cases. The vast majority aren’t?
Rep. Cloud: The vast majority, over 80 to 90 percent, are not. And we don’t have the immigration judges to deal with the situation to process them. So, from the cartel’s perspective, the plan is to overwhelm the system. And we haven’t had the political will to get it done.
Mr. Jekielek: There’s this term being brandished around: sanctuary cities, basically places where folks who get in know they can go and basically be safe from removal. How does that work in Texas? Is there any sort of reality like that in Texas?
Rep. Cloud: In our last session, the state House banned sanctuary cities in a sense. But that doesn’t mean that there are people there who still aren’t working with it.
Mr. Jekielek: How does that work?
Rep. Cloud: They outlawed it, but that doesn’t mean that sheriffs in certain towns aren’t turning a blind eye or not being helpful in this kind of situations. But, you know, anyone who raises their hand and says, “I’m going to uphold the law of the land in the Constitution,” should do that. We can’t expect the people that elect us, the people who are in our citizenry, to follow the law if we can’t expect our elected officials to follow the law. It’s extremely important that people take that seriously.
Mr. Jekielek: A number of law enforcement officials have been explaining to you some of the harsh realities that they’re facing, but you also mention other law enforcement officials that seem to be turning a blind eye. That seems odd to me. How does that work?
Rep. Cloud: The vast majority of Texas law enforcement understand the situation. They’re dealing with it every single day. And it’s not just law enforcement: It’s hospitals that are overwhelmed, school districts that are overwhelmed, counties that have to bury the bodies of migrants who are found; there’s a lot of coordination and a lot of collaboration. You’ve mentioned sanctuary cities, and there are a few individuals who are trying to exert their political will over what’s best for the state of Texas and what’s best for our country.
Mr. Jekielek: Excellent. So any final words with respect to what you would hope to see happen at the border most immediately?
Rep. Cloud: We have to recognize … this is a situation that Congress should have taken care of a long time ago. We promised it to the American people. We really need to take action here in Congress. I don’t know if we’re going to see that political will happen, unfortunately, so this is why the president has declared an emergency declaration. And so, we need to see real action at the border to mitigate this crisis, and understand that it is seriously a crisis. The news [media] isn’t even covering half the situation and the atrocities that are happening at the border. It’s really, really sad.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.