In an exclusive interview with Texas Scorecard, border security expert Victor Avila shared details about the cartels’ human smuggling operations that he learned from illegal border crossers during his recent trip to the Texas-Mexico border.

In Del Rio, the Stripes convenience store serves as the local bus stop. Here, Avila stopped to chat with several Nicaraguans who had just crossed the border and were awaiting a bus into the U.S. interior.

“I asked him, how much did you pay the cartel?” recounted Avila. “And he says, ‘Well, $8,500.’ And I said, ‘Where the heck did you get $8,500?’”

The man explained that he had not yet paid the cartel, but his parents offered their house as collateral, “kind of like a lien to the cartel,” according to Avila. Once he arrives in Minneapolis, he will have to pay the cartel $1,000 a month until he has paid off his loan.

“How are you gonna pay $1,000?” Avila asked.

The man wasn’t sure but explained that he had to pay it on time or the cartel would charge him another $300 a month—a 30 percent interest rate.

“What’s [stopping] you saying the heck with these guys? I’m already in Minneapolis. I’m not gonna pay them back,” asked Avila.

“They’ll take the house and kill my parents,” the man told Avila.

Avila acknowledged that $1,000 a month would be difficult for many people to pay, but he said it would be especially difficult for these illegal aliens. “They are uneducated,” he explained. “They don’t speak the language.”

“He’s gonna have to resort to some kind of activity. I don’t know what that activity is,” said Avila. “Criminal activity? Perhaps sell drugs? Burglarize? I don’t know. But he’s gonna save his family, his parents, from being killed by the cartel, and he will send them $1,000 a month.”

“This now becomes human trafficking. This is a form of indentured servitude.”

Multiple other men at the Stripes store told Avila that they had similar arrangements with the cartels for entrance into the U.S.

“They own them,” said Avila. “And the cartel has a presence in Minneapolis, they have a presence everywhere in the country. They’re gonna make sure they get their money. You’re not gonna escape them.”

The men recounted their journey through Mexico and told Avila they wound up in a warehouse in Monterey with more than 300 other people.

“If you think 325 times $8,500, that gives you an idea, of just that one group, of how much money the cartel is making,” says Avila.

“They saw how much money you can make off of the human beings from the smuggling, and of course, the trafficking, which is the exploitation when they get to the final destination, mostly sexual exploitation of the young girls, but also there’s a lot of forced labor involved here.”

“I want people to come to this country legally,” said Avila, saying that it protects both American citizens and legal immigrants. “We have a set of rules. We have a set of laws. We have a thing called the Constitution. And they’re completely being ignored and disrespected by not just our own administration but by the rest of the world as well.”

Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been tasked by the federal government with assisting illegal aliens when they enter the United States, but some have been accused of pre-processing illegal aliens in Mexico and are believed to be complicit in these human smuggling operations, according to Avila.

Avila specifically implicated the Catholic Charities in McAllen.

“They’re probably the biggest aider and abettor of this human smuggling than anyone. And they’re so secretive. We tried to go inside the one in Eagle Pass where there’s 500 of them [illegals] in there. ‘No, no, you can’t come in here.’ They’re so secretive about it. They’re so protective. They don’t want any attention. ‘Who are you? What do you want?’ They act like they’re doing something wrong because they are.”

Avila says the impact of Biden’s open-border policies on Border Patrol is immense. “There is no morale. The morale doesn’t even exist anymore. But what I got a lot this time was desensitization.”

“Agents themselves—we’re talking about the line people here—are the ones that get really affected by all the bureaucracy and the policy and the politics of it. It’s not good for them. We’re losing them to suicide. We’re losing them to a lot of other issues. They’re early retiring, they’re quitting. We have a big issue here, and bigger than what people think.”

“We need to step up and disrupt what’s going on down at the border,” said Avila. “And the one that holds the key here is Governor Abbott.”

Although Gov. Greg Abbott recently invoked the invasion clauses of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, Avila says an operational plan to stop this chaos has yet to be implemented.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers have been interdicting smuggling operations along the border, but the Texas National Guard members are starved for purpose.

“They haven’t been given a clear role other than you cannot touch the migrants. You cannot interact with them. They’re not under your custody. You cannot arrest them,” said Avila. “They know everything they can’t do very clearly, but they don’t know what they can do. And that has taken a toll.”

“It’s demoralizing to not be used for what you’ve been trained to do.”

“I know ignorance is bliss. We can’t afford that anymore. You have to be aware of what’s happening because what’s happening at the border is already touching your community,” said Avila “And I’m not talking about Texas anymore. I’m talking about every state being a border state.”

Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America, has laid out a plan for Abbott to use his constitutional authority to repel and return illegal border-crossers to Mexico, with the support of the Texas Legislature. This action would provoke a strong response from the Biden administration, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton would be tasked with fending off their interference through the courts.

Sheena Rodriguez, President of Alliance for a Safe Texas, has emphasized the need for action.

“If we are to survive this open assault on our nation’s sovereignty the states must immediately assert their constitutional authority and heavy legislative deterrents. If the reasonable public across the political spectrum begins to understand the detrimental and inhumane impacts of open border policies, it would force the hand of politicians to implement real action.”

Indeed, securing the border and protecting Texans is one of eight GOP legislative priorities for the upcoming session.

The 88th Legislative Session begins January 10, 2023.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.