The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management will examine the growing national security threat posed by America's unprotected Caribbean border, and the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to secure that border from drug trafficking, human smuggling and the possibility of weapons of mass destruction destined for the United States. Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) will chair the hearing, "U.S.-Caribbean Border: Open Road for Drug Traffickers and Terrorists", June 21.
"The disturbing increase in drug trafficking and drug-related violence in this region is a major contributing factor. It is alarming and unacceptable. If this kind of violence were happening anywhere else where 4 million American citizens resided, it would make daily headlines," said Chairman McCaul.
"This problem is no less serious than drug cartels operating across the Mexican border. Moreover, the established ties between drug cartels and terrorist groups such as Hezbollah present an even graver threat to our national security. Essentially, the U.S. Caribbean territories are functioning as an unlocked back door into the mainland United States. This situation is urgent, and must be addressed by the Department of Homeland Security."
Rep. McCaul said the purpose of the upcoming hearing is to assess the extent to which DHS and its components, such as the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and BorderProtection and the Transportation Security Administration need to adjust their strategies and resources in order to protect America's Caribbean Border from this threat. An estimated 30 percent of the illegal drugs now reaching the U.S. mainland come through the Caribbean, and in the case of Puerto Rico over 70 percent of cocaine transiting through the island is destined for stateside markets. More than 165,000 metric tons of illegal drugs were seized in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico during FY2011, up 36% over four years.
PuertoRico Gov. Luis Fortuño, who is on the front lines in the battle against drug trafficking and drug-related violence in the region, will testify before the subcommittee in Washington. Gov. Fortuño said he looks forward to thehearing as an opportunity to help shape a more effective, proportionate response to the security challenge facing America's Caribbean Border.
"I have discussed with Congressman McCaul the challenges we are facing and I commend him for his leadership and initiative on this issue. I look forward to working with him and others to make sure that at both the federal and territorial level, we are doing everything that needs to be done to addressthis issue as a national priority, and secure all of the Nation's borders," Gov. Fortuño said.
The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management has jurisdiction over all DHS operations.