Jaeson Jones held up a handful of colored wristbands during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday.
“What I’m holding in my hand before you today, I want to be very clear, this is America’s new slave trade,” Jones, a former captain for intelligence and counterterrorism at the Texas Department of Public Safety, testified before the committee.
According to Jones, who says he visits the border every other week, the Mexican cartels use the colored bracelets as part of a highly organized system to move illegal aliens across the border. Each of the bracelets “represents a different alien-smuggling organization,” he said.
“We have seen a virus of debt bondage across the nation,” he said, implying that illegal aliens who cannot pay the cartel fee to cross the border remain subject to the cartels and are forced into sex trafficking or other forced labor.
“The smuggling of people has always been there, but the adjustment from smuggling into the trafficking through debt bondage” is significant, Jones said, “because, due to the sheer numbers, they thought to themselves, ‘My God, we can make so much money, and we can do it for the long run.’”
“When you think of human trafficking, most people think of commercial sex,” he said. “That’s one piece of it. Don’t forget you have forced labor, and this is your final form, debt bondage, and now it’s nationwide.”
Because the cartels are making so much money, they have effectively “evolved from organized crime … into an insurgency in Mexico,” he said.
Because of the cartels’ power, Jones told the panel, they “do not fear you.”
“They fear their rivals, and the reason they continue to escalate in hyperviolence and in capability is because if they don’t, then their rivals could completely take them over.”
Wednesday’s hearing was part of a five-stage investigation into what were described as the failures of the Biden administration to secure America’s southern border.
In June, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., announced an investigation into Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the surge of illegal immigrants at the southern border, saying the probe is part of his committee’s “congressional oversight duties” and pledging to leave “no stone unturned in its efforts to get the facts.”
The panel’s investigation, he said, includes examining:
- Mayorkas’ dereliction of duty.
- How the border crisis facilitates the illegal activities of drug cartels.
- The human cost of the border crisis.
- The financial cost of the crisis.
- Suspected fraud within the Department of Homeland Security.
The committee is currently in stage two of the investigation.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the ranking member of the Homeland Security panel, called the string of hearings a “political stunt” during Wednesday’s full committee hearing, and accused Republicans of “squandering the Homeland Security Committee’s time.”
Derek Maltz, former special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division at the Drug Enforcement Administration and a committee witness, responded to Thompson during his opening testimony, sarcastically “apologizing” for “wasting your time.”
Maltz’s comment drew a response from Democrats and Republicans alike on the committee. Rep. Troy Carter, D-La., noting that “decorum and respect” should be maintained during hearings and that witnesses should not direct accusatory comments towards members.
Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., then fired back, claiming Thompson’s comments disrespected “every witness on this panel.”
At the end of the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, Green indirectly addressed Thompson’s remarks himself, telling his Democratic colleagues that Republicans will stop the hearings when “the border is controlled and the cartels are stopped.”
“When Americans stop dying, then we’ll stop these hearings,” he said.
More than 107,000 people in the United States died of drug overdoses and drug poisonings in 2021, and the majority of those deaths were caused by synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cartels are smuggling fentanyl across America’s southern border, and according to Green, “10 kilos [about 22 pounds] of fentanyl is worth about $20 million, but only costs about $50,000 to produce. Every dollar the cartels rake in comes at the cost of an American life or livelihood.”
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