March 16 (UPI) -- Transnational criminal organizations represent a significant threat to security in the Northern hemisphere, as does China -- and immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border is increasing, Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck and Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
VanHerck is the commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, and Faller is the commander of the U.S. Southern Command.
VanHerck said that the number of migrants coming across the Southern border of the United States has dramatically increased in recent months -- and there is also an influx of migrants coming from Africa and Asia.
"We're providing support in the form of aviation support for detection and monitoring and ground support for vehicle maintenance as well," he said, noting that about 4,000 DOD personnel, almost all from the National Guard, are providing that assistance.
Faller talked about the Chinese Communist Party, which he said seeks regional and global economic dominance and is growing its influence in the Americas.
Its activities include loans in trade for political and economic influence, information technology structure and engaging in predatory practices that include illegal fishing, mining and logging.
"We have seen many of these tactics in Asia and Africa. We can't let them prevail here in our neighborhood," Faller said.
He also said the Drug Enforcement Agency has cited Chinese money laundering as the number one underwriter of transnational criminal organizations, which in weapons, drugs and humans in operations that claim tens of thousands of lives every year.
"These murderous tactics have resulted in 43 of the 50 most violent cities in the world being here in this hemisphere, and they drive illegal migration, and they allow bad actors like China to gain influence," he said.
Faller noted that dozens of countries, including Brazil and Columbia, have conducted counter-transnational criminal operations and have assigned some of their forces to high-end training in the United States.
Faller also said that the COVID-19 pandemic and two recent hurricanes have hammered the the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean, which shrank 7.4% in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund.
He said Southcom stepped up its humanitarian assistance programs in response to the events, contributing to more than 450 projects in 28 countries last year.