WASHINGTON – Republicans on the House Oversight Committee sparred with Democrats over the Biden administration’s policies regarding the southern U.S. border Tuesday, which GOP lawmakers say has created a “crisis.”
The hearing – part of the House GOP’s promise to hammer the Biden administration’s immigration policies – featured the testimony of two border patrol agents.
While Republicans stressed that the southern border is in chaos with cartels smuggling migrants and fentanyl traveling freely into the U.S., Democrats said bipartisan immigration reform is needed to address issues at the border.
“Administration officials continue to say they are creating a ‘safe, orderly, humane’ immigration system,” said Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.). “But reality contradicts this propaganda. Conditions at the border are dangerous, chaotic and inhumane.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the committee, said Republicans are hindering progress with immigration legislation.
He cited the Border Safety and Security Act, a restrictive immigration bill that failed to reach the floor in the first two weeks of the 118th Congress after pushback from moderate Republicans.
“Republicans, driven by the extreme MAGA wing of their party, have been systematically thwarting and derailing comprehensive efforts to improve our immigration system and strengthen border enforcement,” Raskin said.
The dialogue resembled last week’s Judiciary Committee hearing about the border. Republicans zeroed in on fentanyl trafficking and cartels putting migrants and U.S. citizens in danger.
Comer asked John Modlin, the chief patrol agent of the Tucson Sector, whether he believes that cartels have significant power at the border.
“Noone crosses the border in the Tucson sector without going through the cartels,” he said.
Gloria Chavez, chief patrol agent of the Rio Grande Valley Sector, also testified. Both witnesses avoided referring directly to the Biden administration or taking political sides, even when pressed by lawmakers.
Many Republicans brought up fentanyl traffic as evidence that the Biden administration does not have control over the border. Democrats rebutted that authorities most often encounter fentanyl at legal ports of entry.
“My colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have us believe that the solution to the fentanyl problem in this country is to discourage both illegal and legal immigration,” said Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), the youngest member of the House.
Rep. Melanie Stanbury (D-N.M.) said a lack of action from the federal government forces local communities, including her constituents in New Mexico, to bear the burden of increased migrants.
“Our government is failing, the system is failing and we need action,” Stansbury said. “It is the inhumane policies of the previous administration that have contributed to this crisis.”
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) responded to Stansbury.
“All I hear is they want to speed up the number of people coming into this country,” he said.
The White House released a memo Tuesday morning ahead of the hearing saying that Republicans are “pushing an agenda that would make things worse at the border.” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) introduced articles of impeachment against Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last week.
Chavez said that Congress was discussing the same immigration issues since she started working for CBP 27 years ago.
“I think that we really need to embrace change, and good change, so that we reform our immigration laws,” Chavez said. “We seriously need to find a solution because we are border patrol agents. We are the ones that enforce policy – your policy – that Congress puts out.”