House Republicans have expressed concern about Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intercepting an increasing number of foreign nationals from countries outside of South or Central America, including Russia, and high-value targets from China.
These concerns were raised during a June 21 House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence hearing, which focused on the threats posed to the United States by nation-state actors in Latin America.
Representative August Pfluger (R-Texas) expressed alarm and concern while providing meaningful information during the hearings regarding border encounters with foreign nationals crossing the southern border from various countries.
He voiced concerns about the potential for anti-U.S. regimes to exploit the chaos at the Southwest border.
He emphasized the expanding influence of China and other foreign adversaries in Latin America, which he believed had clear implications for U.S. homeland security.
The lawmaker emphasized the urgent need to address security challenges related to nation-state actors in Latin America and highlighted the economic and security ties between China and countries like Brazil and Venezuela.
He pointed out that China has provided substantial financial support to the region, including loans amounting to approximately $137 billion.
Specifically, he expressed concern about Venezuela, which has received around $60 billion in loans from China.
These concerns arise from China’s military and security partnerships with Venezuela, including arms sales totaling $615 million between 2009 and 2019.
The encounters with Russian citizens at the Southwest border have also significantly increased, with the trend continuing in the first seven months of fiscal year 2023.
According to information cited by the lawmakers, there were only 4,103 encounters with Russian citizens in 2021, but that number jumped to 21,763 in fiscal year 2022.
For the first seven months of fiscal year 2023, the number has already surpassed 33,000.
Furthermore, Representative Pfluger mentioned Russia’s cooperating activities with anti-U.S. regimes like Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba.
He cited instances of the Russian Federation helping Venezuela dodge sanctions using internal state-controlled companies for oil transportation from Venezuela.
The chairman also noted the involvement of the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, which aims to undermine U.S. influence and presents itself as a mediator and security partner to anti-U.S. countries.
The Wagner Group has been observed providing training to Venezuela’s armed forces.
During the committee hearing, Christopher Hernandez-Roy, the Deputy Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies expressed similar concerns.
Hernandez-Roy emphasized that these actors present interconnected challenges to regional security, consequently affecting U.S. security.
The expert testified that although each actor has distinct capabilities and long-term objectives, they frequently coordinate formally and informally to challenge U.S. regional influence.
Hernandez-Roy further noted that despite their differing geopolitical goals and world views, Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran have displayed a worrisome level of convergence in their efforts to sow discord and disrupt the United States.
This convergence raises concerns about the coordinated actions taken by these actors to undermine U.S. interests.