Senator Joni Ernst says a new federal crime should be established to punish people caught working as Mexican cartel scouts along the southern border.

“These spotters keep an eye open for the cartels and let them know where Border Patrol agents are,” Ernst says, “so they know where and when to direct drugs, trafficked human beings and weapons.”

Ernst was among a group of Republican senators who visited the border late last week and held a news conference earlier today in Washington, D.C.

“While we standing there at the border on the river, across the river from us was a spotter for the cartel,” Ernst said. “…I mean, they are over there just taunting us with their presence.”

Under Ernst’s proposal, that spotter and others like him would face up to 10 years in prison if caught. Under current federal law, the penalty for those convicted of “immigration-related entrepreneurship” can be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Ernst said the coyotes who are being paid to guide migrants across the border are physically and sexually abusing women and girls.  “When is this administration going to wake up and say: ‘Stop coming here, don’t take this dangerous journey,’?” Ernst asked. “When are they going to change their policies?”

For the current federal budgeting year, the Border Patrol expects its encounters with migrants at the southern border to reach levels not seen in 20 years. In June, the agency made nearly 192,000 arrests at the border. President Biden met with Mexico’s president a week ago and the Mexican leader agreed to spend $1.5 billion over the next two years to shore up security in northern Mexico.