Leon Wilmot, sheriff with the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that illegal encounters have gone from “an average of 40 per day” to over 1,000 per day along the river corridor in Yuma, Arizona, after the Biden Administration reversed Trump administration border policies.
Wilmot said that two years ago, Yuma County was one of the safest border counties but that is no longer the case.
Wilmot described the area along the river near the open fields as an “environmental disaster” due to the trash, pharmaceuticals and biological waste “left by those crossing the border illegally.”
Wilmot said drug cartels charge anywhere from $6,000 up to $15,000 to smuggle humans into the U.S. over the southwest border depending on their country of origin. He said the cartels use social media to recruit juveniles into the U.S.
“Children are also the pawns in the cartel’s money-making schemes. Roughly 400 to 800 juveniles cross our border every day to go to school in Yuma County. The cartels use them to body conceal and carry narcotics across and tell them that the federal government will not charge a juvenile for smuggling so you don’t have to worry about being arrested,” he said on Thursday during a House Judiciary Committee field hearing titled, “The Biden Border Crisis – Part II.”
In FY2021, Yuma County taxpayers shelled out $440,000 to handle crimes committed by illegal migrants in the county. In FY2022, it was about $300,000. The crimes included sexual exploitation of minors, narcotics offenses, assaults, kidnapping, burglary and theft cases. In one case, Wilmot said his office is handling murder charges against a smuggler who killed the individual he was attempting to bring into the U.S. illegally.
In FY2021, there was 5 million fentanyl doses seized along the Arizona border alone and 12,000 pounds of fentanyl in FY2022.
Jonathan Lines, Yuma County supervisor, said at the hearing that “every community in the United States is now a border community due to an abject failure by this administration to control and stem the tide of illegal entry along the southwest border and to commit to take back control of the border from the cartels.”
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “China remains the primary source of fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances trafficked through international mail and express consignment operations environment, as well as the main source for all fentanyl-related substances trafficked into the United States.”
Lines said cartels are marketing opioids to minors through social media outlets.
“These stories are tragic when parents talk about the loss of life of their sons and daughters due to fentanyl and opioids,” he said.
Lines called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to follow through on their previous commitment to close the Yuma gaps in the border barrier. Lines said Mayorkas pledged to do so during his visit to the border last year.
Democratic members of the committee were reportedly not present at the field hearing.
House Judiciary Ranking Member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Congressional Progressive Caucus chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) released a statement in advance of the field hearing.
“Despite the importance of this issue, there was no consultation with Judiciary Democrats, many of whom have already committed [to] attending other bipartisan congressional delegation trips,” the lawmakers said.
“Instead of focusing on real solutions to a complicated problem, Judiciary Republicans will once again not hear from any federal government witnesses at their hearing, further cementing this hearing as a brazen act of political grandstanding. As a result, Democrats, who have been to the border regularly the last few years, will not attend next week’s performative hearing,” they added.