Drug smugglers and human traffickers “have a very effective intelligence gathering system” that is “much more effective than what we have in the U.S. government,” former U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent A. J. Irwin said Wednesday during a panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington.

The discussion highlighted recent statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency showing a dramatic ten-fold increase in the number of illegal immigrants claiming asylum when they reach the U.S. border since 2009.

Irwin said that smugglers quickly find out about changes in U.S. law or policy and then move to exploit them.

“So when there’s a process like asylum, where there’s some kind of policy that happens here that affects detention or your ability to get parole or whatever here in the United States, it travels in… their criminal organization’s intelligence network,” Irwin said.

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