America’s porous southern border and the recent surge in illegal immigration is more than just a “humanitarian crisis,” claims the top U.S. general in charge of Central and South America, it’s a threat to the United States’ very existence.
Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly is commander of the U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, charged with responsibility for the Caribbean Sea and all lands south of Mexico.
Particularly in regards to the drug trade, murder rates and terrorist activity brewing in Central America, Kelly says, the waves of Latin Americans sweeping through Mexico and illegally into Texas presents a threat to the U.S. every bit as serious as Iran or North Korea.
“In comparison to other global threats, the near collapse of societies in [this] hemisphere with the associated drug and [illegal immigrant] flow are frequently viewed to be of low importance,” Kelly said in an interview with Defense One. “Many argue these threats are not existential and do not challenge our national security. I disagree.”
“Last year, we had to cancel more than 200 very effective engagement activities and numerous multilateral exercises,” Kelly said, explaining that a full 74 percent of “actionable illicit trafficking events” simply go unanswered, because he doesn’t have the funds or resources to do anything about it.
“I simply sit and watch it go by,” he continued. “And because of service cuts, I don’t expect to get any immediate relief, in terms of assets, to work with in this region of the world.”
Worse yet, he continued, with smuggling routes wide open for business, it’s far more than cocaine or children seeking a better life getting a free pass across the border.
“Clearly, criminal networks can move just about anything on these smuggling pipelines,” Kelly said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in February. “Terrorist organizations could seek to leverage those same smuggling routes to move operatives with intent to cause grave harm to our citizens or even quite easily bring weapons of mass destruction into the United States.”
As America’s top military eye on Central America, Kelly is also warning that the recent spike in illegal immigrants moving from countries like Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras across the U.S. border presents another level of threat. Those three countries, he noted, are all among the Top 5 nations worldwide in homicide rates, in part because of their rampant gang activity.
“Although there are a number of other countries I work with in Latin America and the Caribbean that are going in the same direction,” Kelly told Defense One, “the so-called Northern Triangle (Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) is far and away the worst off.”
Since October, tens of thousands of migrants have made the dangerous journey north from Latin America to the United States border. Many are children, and statistics show the vast majority of the immigrants in the recent influx are unaccompanied minors who have traveled from Central America’s “Northern Triangle.”
And between rampant drug trafficking and human trafficking of Central American youngsters, Kelly warned Congress, cartels and gangs that have already spread throughout the U.S. will only grow more dangerous.
“Chairman, gone are the days of the ‘cocaine cowboys,’” Kelly testified. “Instead, we and our partners are confronted with cocaine corporations that have franchises all over the world, including 1,200 American cities, as well as criminal enterprises like the violent transnational gang Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, that specialize in extortion and human trafficking.
“The FBI has warned that MS-13 has a significant presence in California, North Carolina, New York, and northern Virginia, and is expanding into new areas of the United States, including Indian reservations in South Dakota,” he concluded.
Full article: General: Border crisis threatens U.S. existence (WND)