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EXCLUSIVE: Top Border Official Testified To Congress Shocking Details Of Cartels’ Migrant Smuggling ‘Business Model’

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Jennie Taer Investigative Reporter
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The then-Border Patrol chief of the San Diego Sector testified earlier this year that the cartels in Mexico have a well-organized business model that is making them immense profits from surging illegal immigration, according to a transcript of closed-door testimony exclusively obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Then-San Diego Sector Chief Aaron Heitke, who has since retired, told the committee on May 9 that the cartels in Mexico charged illegal migrants $8,000 to $20,000 depending on points of crossing, according to the transcript. The number of Border Patrol encounters with migrants illegally crossing the southern border exceeded 2.2 million in fiscal year 2022 and 2 million in fiscal year 2023, according to federal data.

Those encounters are a cash cow for the cartels, Heitke said.

“It’s a business model that they use,” Heitke said.

The price tag on migrant crossings varies depending on whether it is done by land, water or with a large group numbering hundreds of individuals, Heitke said. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: ‘Shot Between The Eyes’: Border Patrol Chiefs Testify On Cartel Violence Against Border-Crossers)

“So, on land, right now, to cross on our 60 miles of land border, on average it costs about $8,000 per person,” Heitke said, adding that it can cost up to $12,000 per person to cross by land.

“On the water, it’s generally between $12,000 and $20,000 per person,” he said.

“They also use different ways to manage. So if they have a large group of 200 or 300 people, sometimes they will only have to pay $400 or $500 per person because it’s quicker and it’s easier for them to move those folks in places,” Heitke said.

(Photo by ENRIQUE CASTRO/AFP via Getty Images)

View of a bullet-riddled wall bearing the initials of the criminal group Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) at the entrance of the community of Aguililla, state of Michoacan, Mexico, on April 23, 2021. (Photo by ENRIQUE CASTRO/AFP via Getty Images)

Human smugglers also control taxi cab services in Mexico that take migrants up to the border with the U.S., Heitke said.

“And we have individuals as well that they don’t necessarily have direct contact to the smuggling organizations. So, they may show up from wherever country, they came to Tijuana and talk to people to get a cab ride up to the border and be told, you’re going to cross here,” Heitke said.

“For that cab ride, maybe it will cost $500 or $600. But it’s all part of the organizations that are moving people,” Heitke said.

Deputy Chief Patrol Agent Dustin Caudle testified to the committee on Sept. 28 that “there’s really no limit to the techniques and tactics that smugglers will do,” according to the transcript.

“I don’t think there’s any limit and so we could talk all day about smuggling strategies, but any and all means are possible. I have seen people with scuba gear, you know, trying to come up the river. We’ve seen, of course, vehicles utilized with predesignated pickup spots, remote foot traffic, you know, like I said, the open bombing ranges. So, they will walk through live fire ranges because they know we can’t patrol in those areas,” Caudle said of the Yuma, Arizona, region, which houses a massive Air Force training range.

“Again, the utilization of the stash house, you know, is very common. Again, they’re looking for that opportunity to move out of the area, trying to hope a checkpoint goes down or that there’s not as many DPS patrolling the highway during that time,” Caudle added.

House Homeland Committee Chairman Mark Green has been investigating Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, accusing him of being derelict in his duty in handling the border crisis. House Republicans like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who reintroduced articles of impeachment against Mayorkas for a third time at the end of November, blame the DHS secretary for the rise in illegal immigration and mass releases of migrants into the country.

“Thanks to Secretary Mayorkas’ policies, criminal cartels now exercise unprecedented control of the Southwest border. They have taken advantage of his refusal to enforce the immigration laws passed by Congress, strategically overwhelming Border Patrol agents with illegal crossings in one area so they can push record numbers of people and deadly drugs across in another,” Green said in a statement to the DCNF Monday.

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