U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, came back from a recent trip to Mexico with some troubling facts.
“The security and prosperity of our nation are directly affected by that of our neighbors,” said Lankford. “Currently, about 45 percent of Mexico is controlled by approximately 15,000 armed gang members, who engage in drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, and lawlessness.
“This is a very similar situation to when ISIS was at the peak of its power in Syria – with 18,000 armed terrorists in control of half of the country. Mexico’s problems with drug cartels have a direct impact on American lives.
“Last year, more than 64,000 American died of a drug overdose – most of those illegal drugs came from or through Mexico. Our nation must address the demand for drugs and confront our own addiction while seeking to enhance our security cooperation with Mexico and Central America to address illicit trafficking at its source.
“Guatemala and Honduras have made incredible strides confronting drug trafficking, corruption, illegal migration, justice systems, and economic opportunities for their own people.
“But poverty, illiteracy, corruption and smuggling still exist. Both nations are strong trade and security partners for the United States.
Lankford recently toured Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and immigration facilities in America to broaden his understanding of Central America and immigration.
The purpose of the trip was to conduct congressional oversight of intelligence and security operations, immigration, counter-narcotics operations, and trade in the region.
While in Central America, from January 25 to January 28, Lankford met with American Embassy diplomats and foreign officials, including U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala Luis Arreaga, and Honduran President Hernández. This trip was a part of Lankford’s oversight role as a member of the Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees.
“In my meetings with Guatemalan President Morales and Honduran President Hernandez, I expressed our nation’s commitment to work together to help develop more economic opportunities for both countries, and to fight drug trafficking, government corruption, and illegal migration,” Lankford said.
On January 29, Lankford visited the federal immigration detention facility in Houston.
“In the final segment of my trip, I was able to meet with leaders and agents with the Customs and Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other related agencies,” Lankford said. “I walked through the very large Houston ICE detention center to see the facility, meet the staff, and hear their ideas for how to improve the system. I saw hundreds of criminal aliens that are in the deportation process in that one location.
“These are individuals who have not only violated our immigration law, but many of them have also committed crimes while they were in our communities. The men and women who work for ICE enforce our laws and protect our nation every day; they deserve our support and our gratitude. The rhetoric and false accusations that they face are unexplainable, especially when you see how they serve our country each day.”
Lankford visited the Okmulgee ICE detention facility in August of 2017 to see its operation, meet the staff, and gain insight into the detention process for those illegally present in the United States.
In August of 2016, Lankford visited Guatemala to evaluate immigration issues and meet with President Morales, Attorney General Thelma Aldana, and other members of the government. Lankford also met with U.S. diplomats and Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration, and FBI officials at the American Embassy in Guatemala.
Oklahoma City is a location for one of Guatemala’s consulates, which opened in June of 2017.