The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said on Thursday that the deaths of two Americans at the hands of Mexican cartels shows that cartels have been “emboldened” under the Biden administration.
Four Americans were kidnapped in a drug cartel shootout last week after crossing into the border city of Matamoros on Friday, authorities say. Two of the four were killed, while the two survivors have been returned to the U.S. and are hospitalized.
As details continue to emerge about the incident, Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., called the kidnappings “a terrifying glimpse into how Americans can quickly fall victim to cartel violence and how emboldened the cartels are under the Biden administration.”
“Though this brazen attack occurred on the Mexican side of the border, just a few miles from U.S. soil, the cartels continue to exploit the weak posture that the Biden administration has taken with its perilous border security policies,” he said.
Republicans have frequently accused the administration of having encouraged cartels by rolling back Trump-era border security measures and expanding releases of migrants into the interior. They have tied the policies with the massive migrant surge that has hit the U.S. since Biden took office, with over 2.3 million migrant encounters in FY 2022 alone.
Green said in the statement that cartels “have mastered how to use Biden and Mayorkas’ failed border policies to their advantage” in the U.S. and Mexico, and pointed to deaths of Americans due to fentanyl – which is primarily trafficked along the U.S. land border – and the apprehension of 166 individuals on the terror watchlist between ports of entry.
“Cartels aren’t afraid of us anymore, and their brazen actions demonstrate this reality,” he said.
The administration, meanwhile, has pushed back on the narrative that they are not tough enough on cartels and the border in general. On Tuesday White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted a slew of sanctions the administration has slapped on various cartel organizations and leaders – including some announced by the Treasury last month.
“Since day one of this administration, we have been focused on disrupting transnational criminal organizations, including Mexican drug cartels and human smugglers,” Jean-Pierre said.
“We remain committed to applying the full weight of our efforts and resources to counter them,” she added.
Officials have also highlighted the more than 8,000 arrests made in an anti-smuggling operation launched last year, increased cooperation with Mexico, as well as record DHS funding secured that the administration says allowed for the hiring of over 23,000 border officials. It has also called on Republicans to back additional funding and to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill.
The Justice Department has also promised to take action in the wake of the kidnappings.
“The DEA and the FBI are doing everything possible to dismantle and disrupt and ultimately prosecute the leaders of the cartels and the entire networks that they depend on,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.