Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Monday that his agency will vigorously pursue "the transnational criminal organizations" — gangs and cartels — that are fueling the explosion in illegal immigrants and drugs at the U.S. border.
"The TCOs and cartels, they control the southern side of the border," Wolf, who took over last month from Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan, told Fox News. "They have to be paid.
"They have to be compensated for any of these large flows coming across the border.
"You eliminate that and you eliminate their ability to recruit in Central America and bring these folks up," he said.
Wolf comes to the job as the Trump administration has made pursuing TCOs, among them MS-13 and the Sinaloa Cartel, a stronger priority. He said the agency will hit the groups' cash-flow operations, though such efforts will require more government resources.
The White House also is pushing through more asylum reforms, while stepping up construction of the border wall and working with Central American countries to overhaul where and how asylum seekers are processed, Fox News reports.
"When we talk about TCOs, it's not only them facilitating the flow of migrants to the border," Wolf said. "It's also drugs, weapons and a lot of the violence.
"So, targeting TCOs in a real way is something that I will certainly push and work on from a DHS perspective, but we'll also be working in the larger interagency to really start targeting these groups — because once you start eliminating their ability to bring migrants and the like, then I think you'll start seeing a different dynamic."
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