House Republicans stated that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have intercepted an increasing number of foreign nationals from countries not in South or Central America, including Russia, and several high-value targets from China.
In a June 21 Committee on Homeland Security hearing on Threats Posed to the Homeland by Nation-State Actors in Latin America, held by the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, concerns were raised by several lawmakers regarding the potential dangers posed to the United States by an unsecured border.
During the hearing, Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas) voiced his alarm and shared significant information regarding encounters with foreign nationals from various countries of concern.
“I am concerned that the chaos of the Southwest border could be taken advantage of by anti-U.S. regimes—not just can, but has been,” Pfluger said.
“Meanwhile, the PRC and our foreign adversaries are expanding their spheres of influence in Latin America, right in our backyard. … There are clear implications for U.S. Homeland Security.”
Pfluger highlighted the growing migration crisis resulting from the administration’s policy decisions, leading to significant increases in encounters at the Southwest border. Of particular concern were the encounters involving individuals from what he referenced as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia.
He pointed out that several sheriff’s offices had reported apprehending multiple high-value targets from China, who were subsequently taken into custody by the FBI and cited data from the CBP showing increase in fiscal year 2023 encounters with nationals from various continents by border patrol along the Southwest border.
“In the first seven months of fiscal year 2023, over 9,711 PRC nationals were encountered by U.S. border patrol along our Southwest border exponentially more than the previous three years,” Pfluger said, warning that the “chaos of the Southwest border could be taken advantage of by anti-U.S. regimes.”
The lawmaker went on to emphasize that the expanding influence of China and other foreign adversaries in Latin America posed clear implications for U.S. homeland security. The chairman further stressed the urgent need to address the security challenges associated with nation-state actors in the region.
In his opening statement, Pfluger underscored China’s economic and security ties with Latin American countries like Brazil and Venezuela. He highlighted the substantial financial support provided by China, with loans amounting to approximately $137 billion offered to the region.
Venezuela emerged as the primary beneficiary, receiving roughly $60 billion in loans, which could be seen as problematic, considering China’s military and security partnerships, including the sale of $615 million worth of weapons to Venezuela between 2009 and 2019.
Concerns About Russian Nationals
The encounters with Russian citizens also experienced a sharp rise with the trend continuing for first seven months of fiscal year 2023.
According to information cited by the lawmakers, in 2021 CBP reported just 4,103 encounters of Russian citizens along our Southwest border. However, that number jumped to 21,763 in fiscal year 2022 and it’s over 33,000 for the first seven months of fiscal year 2023.
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