Texas Democratic congressman Henry Cuellar says he's getting more information from Mexico than the United States about the ongoing surge of border activity, which he says earned Mexican cartel traffickers $600 million in February alone.
Cuellar criticized the Biden administration's lack of information-sharing on the border during a Wednesday morning MSNBC appearance. The Democrat—whose district includes the border town of Laredo—revealed that he gets a briefing on border activity "first from the Mexicans, because it's hard to get information from our own government."
"And I sit on the Homeland Appropriations [Subcommittee]," Cuellar said. "I get more information from across the river than I get from my own government, which is just amazing."
Cuellar also detailed the massive profit raked in by Mexican drug cartels working to traffic illegal migrants into the United States. According to the Democrat, the cartels are behind a "very aggressive" messaging campaign aimed at enticing would-be migrants to make the journey across the border. Traffickers earn an average of $6,000 per migrant, Cuellar noted, meaning the cartels made roughly $600 million off of the 100,441 migrants encountered along the southern border in February.
The push from cartels to drive illegal immigration presents a difficult challenge for the Biden administration. Both the president and top Homeland Security officials have attempted to dissuade migrants from entering the United States in recent weeks. But after visiting a Texas migrant facility, Cuellar said that "nobody had heard" the administration's message. "Almost everybody" at the facility, meanwhile, took advice from "neighbors, friends, and family members" who relayed their successful arrival in the United States.
The White House did not return a request for comment.
This is not the first time Cuellar has criticized the Biden administration for a lack of transparency on the border. After the White House refused to allow media access to migrant facilities across the Lone Star State, the Democrat shared photos of the overcrowded detention centers, lamenting the "terrible conditions for the children."
Government officials have since pledged to offer limited media access to a shelter in Carrizo Springs, Texas. But the facility differs from the warehouse-like centers documented by Cuellar. Instead of housing migrants in temporary "pods"—which Cuellar said housed more than 400 minors despite a 260-person capacity—the shelter offers bunk beds and educational services. Even with the improved optics, White House officials are only allowing one network camera into the facility.
Republicans have also expressed concern that Mexican cartels are taking advantage of the surge in illegal border crossings. After visiting Arizona's southern border, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) said cartels are exploiting now-abandoned construction roads used to build the border wall to traffic drugs and illegal migrants into the country. The strategy comes as many federal law enforcement agents are being pulled from the border to tend to the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children housed in U.S. facilities, thus limiting their ability to police the surge.
Cuellar said he "tried several times" to convince the White House to "pay attention" to the escalating number of border apprehensions as early as January. The Democrat predicted that the mounting crisis will come to haunt Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections if the Biden administration fails to quell the eruption in illegal immigration.
"I'm a Democrat. I supported Biden. But this will become a political problem," Cuellar said. "As we can see, our Republican colleagues are already turning this into a political weapon."