McALLEN, Texas Congressman Vicente Gonzalez says cartels in Mexico could have earned $1.2 billion this year through smuggling undocumented migrants into the United States. 

The McAllen Democrat arrived at this figure by multiplying 172,000, which is the number of migrants known to have crossed the southern border in the last three months, by $6,000, which is the going rate to get an undocumented immigrant into the United States. 

Gonzalez is urging the Biden Administration to process asylum seekers on the Mexico-Guatemala border. That way, he said, you “take cartels out of the equation.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.

Gonzalez recently took a bipartisan group of congress men and women, known as the Problem Solvers Caucus, to the southern border. He followed this up by quizzing Ricardo Zúñiga, special envoy for the Northern Triangle at the U.S. Department of State, during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere, Civilian Security, Migration and International Economic Policy Subcommittee.

Another Biden official he questioned was Peter Natiello, deputy assistant administrator in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, U.S. Agency for International Development. The hearing was titled, “Renewing the United States’ Commitment to Addressing the Root Causes of Migration from Central America.”

Gonzalez represents the 15th Congressional District of Texas, Part of the district is on the Texas-Mexico border.

“We do not have the resources to deal with 173,000 people who came mostly to my section of the border. It has really overwhelmed us and overwhelmed all our local capacity,” Gonzalez told the hearing.

“What I have advocated is to have the same system we have in my district in a very humane, clean, first-class American facility closer to them on the southern Mexico border or the Guatemala border.”

Gonzalez said he does not see an end in sight to the surge in migrants seeking asylum.

“We are talking about climate migration down the road and maybe other countries down the road. What are we doing in planning long term ideas to be able to help folks closer to home and have these processing centers and maybe refugee settlements, or whatever it is, to help this mass migration that is coming north, further south and to keep them from coming through Mexico? Gonzalez asked Zúñiga.

Gonzalez said he and a neighboring congressman calculated that, “just in the last 90 days, cartels have probably been enriched about $1.2 billion just from the migration that has occurred this year, at an average of $6,000 a head that they are charging.”

Gonzalez said the United States should have same migration processing procedures it has in his district in place in Mexico and/or Guatemala.

“Ultimately, I envisage actually having your asylum hearings in safe zones where we can ensure and guarantee their safety. I think we need to start having out of the box ideas or we are going to continue dealing with this on our southern border,” Gonzalez said.

“And when I say doing this in these countries I mean doing it in a fashion that is first-class, that is respectable, that is humane, that is clean and dignified, no different than if they came to the United States. And if they have a credible threat or if they are granted asylum they can just get on an airplane and fly in and take the cartels out of this equation.”

Zúñiga, the State Department’s special envoy for the northern triangle countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, answered Gonzalez’s questions. He said:

“Congressman, you have exactly defined our effort in Mexico and in northern Central America, to build that capacity locally, because, among other things, Mexico is no longer just a transit country, it is a destination country.”

Zúñiga said the U.S. has committed “significant resources” to the northern triangle countries over the last few years. He said the U.S. has worked with international organizations “to build protection capacity into the immigration systems along the way, in close collaboration with governments in Mexico and in Central America.”

Zúñiga added: “As you say, the importance has to be treating people with dignity and giving them access to the resources locally so that they don’t feel like they have to transit to the U.S. border.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez talking to members of the Problem Solvers Caucus on the banks of the Rio Grande at Anzalduas Park, in Mission, Texas.

Editor’s Note: The podcast posted below features a news conference Rep. Gonzalez and the Problem Solvers Caucus recently held on the banks of the Rio Grande River at Anzalduas Park, in Mission, Texas. 

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