Sen. Rick Scott of Florida visited Yuma Monday and Tuesday to take a firsthand look at the southern border. While touring the border along the Colorado River, Scott saw several families and individuals cross the border and request asylum. They were from Haiti, Brazil, Cuba and Columbia.

Afterwards, the Republican senator, along with local leaders and law enforcement members, held a press conference in front of Morelos Dam. He was accompanied by Yuma County Supervisor Jonathan Lines; Tim Roemer, director of Arizona Department of Homeland Security; Yuma Mayor Doug Nicholls; Sheriff Leon Wilmot; and State Sen. Tim Dunn.

After thanking the Sheriff’s Office, local police and Border Patrol for their role in keeping American citizens safe, Scott blasted President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for not visiting the border and called for the resignation of Alejandro Mayorkas, the secretary of U.S. Homeland Security, for purportedly not securing the border.

“I know there are a lot of wonderful people that want to come here to live the dream of this country and your heart goes out to them that they don’t have the same opportunity in their country, but you have to have a secure border if you want to prevent terrorism, if you want to prevent crime, if you want to prevent the unbelievable number of people dying of drug overdoses right now,” he added.

Scott noted that so far this calendar year, more than 1.7 million people have been apprehended along the southern border. But he is particularly concerned with the “hundreds of thousands of people” that have not been apprehended.

He said that thousands of migrants have been found to have prior records of assault, domestic violence and drug trafficking, more than 500 had committed sexual offenses and 9,000 had warrants for their arrests.

The senator said that the surge of migrants is the result of organized efforts by the drug cartels to distract Border Patrol agents so they can smuggle drugs. Wilmot agreed with the tactic, noting that while agents are tied up with processing hundreds of thousands of migrants, cartels are taking advantage of gaps along the border to smuggle drugs.

Scott pointed out that 100,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses in the last 12 months. Wilmot said that law enforcement has seized more than 5,000 pounds of heroin, 11,000 pounds of fentanyl, 190,000 pounds of methamphetamines, 97,000 pounds of cocaine, and 379,000 of marijuana.

The sheriff claimed that the cartels make a hefty profit by charging between $6,000 and $20,000 per migrant. Those unable to pay upfront end up in indentured servitude.

Roemer agreed. “This border crisis is being profited by the drug cartels to the tune of billions of dollars. They are getting richer while so many others suffer,” he said.

Although the Border Patrol has apprehended 114,000 migrants along the 115 miles of international boundary in Yuma County, “what concerns us is the amount of getaways going through the eastern desert that do not want to be caught,” Wilmot said.

He claimed that the cartels are smuggling in individuals from countries with ties to terrorism, such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Consequently, he noted, the Western Sheriffs Association declared that members had “no confidence” in Mayorkas. “We need to get the secretary for homeland security (to) secure this border and deliver consequences for those that would break our laws,” Wilmot said.

Nicholls also thanked the men and women of Border Patrol who “tirelessly” perform every day. “It’s because of them that Yuma as a community is fairly secure, but us as a country, we need further security for our borders,” he said. “Until we have a secure border, we can’t have an impact on the humanitarian atrocities that happen during trafficking ... I don’t care what your political affiliation is. I do not know a single American who believes that letting people be abused, be trafficked and be used is acceptable.”

Once the border is secured, Nicholls added, “then we can work on true immigration reform to get to the point where we can bring in people who are looking to join America to work and build the future of our country.”

“As a state legislator, we’re going to continue to use all the resources we can to partner with the Border Patrol and Sheriff’s to stop the illegal drug flow coming into this country,” Dunn said.

He praised the agriculture industry for doing a “great job keeping the migrants out of our fields” and said that growers “check each and every field before we ship produce so you can rest assured that is not a problem and an issue.”

But the record-breaking number of migrants are taking up an extraordinary amount of resources, making it harder for farmworkers to cross the border every day to work on fields, Dunn noted.

Lines noted that his family had been personally affected by the fentanyl epidemic. He explained that his wife’s coworker, after leaving their home, found her son overdosing from fentanyl. He died two days later.

“This is a severe tragedy and there’s more that we can do to secure our border,” Lines said. “We’ve got to do everything we can do to protect our kids and our youth.”

Asked by the Yuma Sun how to secure the border, Scott replied, “It’s not like one thing.” He said the border wall must be finished and technology, such as drones, used.

Most importantly, he added, those crossing the border must be vetted. Although it would cost millions and millions of dollars, “it’s well worth it,” he said. “If we did proper vetting over time, we will save time, we will save lives.”

Scott touted a bill he recently introduced that would give governors the authority to use funds to deal with the issues directly. “This is not a Republican, Democrat issue. This is an American public safety issue, and we’ve got to provide whatever resources we can to our governors, to our local law enforcement, our Border Patrol,” he said.

Asked what he would tell migrants thinking of coming to the U.S., Scott said, “My heart goes out to you. I know a lot of people want to come to our country and live the dream of our country. We are the greatest country ever, with more opportunity than any place else. You can start from anywhere like I did, living in public housing with a single mom. That’s the great thing about this country, but you’ve got to do it through the legal process.

“And you have to understand how the process works. You shouldn’t be giving money to the cartel. The cartel is not your friend. They don’t care about your family. They don’t care about your children. They don’t care about anybody. I hope people stop doing that and don’t be part of bringing drugs here. You wouldn’t want something to happen to your family, for one of your family members to die of drugs, so don’t be part of that,” he added.

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