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Lankford, Ernst Target Cartel Spotters, Increase Penalties for Anyone Abetting Illegal Activity on Southern Border

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – After touring the Rio Grande Valley sector of the southern border a week ago, Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management with jurisdiction over the southern border, joined Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to target cartel “spotters” by introducing the Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act, which increases penalties for those who aid cartels in illegal activity by transmitting information about the positions of Border Patrol or destroying Border Patrol communication devices.

“The cartels and other bad actors are destroying our border protection equipment and acting as ‘spotters’ so their bosses can evade capture when smuggling people and drugs across our border–out-playing the Biden Administration and ultimately putting our Border Patrol at risk. That is unacceptable,” said Lankford. “The steep punishments we are proposing for anyone caught ‘spotting’ and/or destroying security equipment on the border should be something all 100 Senators can easily support.” 

“As our border crisis continues to spiral out of control, the cartels are only getting smarter and more advanced,” said Ernst. “Spotters have become a critical player in how cartels evade law enforcement. By implementing stricter penalties on spotters, it not only deters new individuals from joining cartel efforts, but it prevents more experienced spotters who have been apprehended from quickly returning to action.”

Currently, the cartels employ individuals, or “spotters,”, to surveil stretches of the southern border and report on Border Patrol movements, equipment locations, and other law enforcement activity. These spotters seek to aid the cartels in avoiding law enforcement while trafficking people, drugs, and other illegal contraband. The Transnational Criminal Organization Illicit Spotter Prevention and Elimination Act would harshen penalties on spotters by increasing fines and imposing a maximum prison time of 10 years on those convicted of helping cartels.

Following his tour last week, Lankford was briefed by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics on the rise of drug trafficking and drug overdoses. Lankford continues to lead in the Senate to stand up against Biden’s open border policies and lack of law enforcement leadership, which he has discussed directly with border law enforcement agents and officers. This week, Lankford called out the Biden Administration on the Senate floor about Biden’s wide open southern border that is threatening the security of Americans. Lankford reiterated that the Biden Administration is working to help people cross our border more efficiently, not securing the border.

Lankford recently spoke on the Senate floor in support of a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to dissolve a proposed Biden Administration rule that would illegally upend the process by which the US government grants asylum claims to migrants. Lankford joined Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and 29 Senators to introduce the resolution in April. The resolution failed to pass in the Senate in a vote of 46 to 48. Lankford shared his disappointment after the Supreme Court decided to allow the Biden Administration to start rolling back the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Lankford sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on his concerns about efforts to re-implement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers. Lankford has repeatedly asked for information and raised significant questions about whether DHS followed the District Court’s order to resume the program in “good faith.”

Lankford is leading the charge to push back on the Biden Administration’s plans to revoke temporary, pandemic-related Title 42 authority and to stop the ongoing chaos at the southern border amid Biden’s hypocrisy about COVID. After the highest year on record for illegal crossings this past year, Lankford introduced the Public Health and Border Security Act to require all COVID-19 related national states of emergency to be lifted before Title 42 is officially terminated until a workable plan to replace it is put in place.