WASHINGTON – Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee set out during the panel’s first hearing investigating border policies to pin the blame on President Joe Biden and his policies, while Democrats responded by attacking their colleagues on language they said inspires violence and hatred toward immigrants.
Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) began by reciting border crossing and apprehension statistics.
“These numbers make clear that the Biden administration does not have operational control of the border,” Jordan said. “Under President Trump the border was secure; under Biden there is no border.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) condemned Republicans for blaming the issue on the Biden administration alone, including by naming the hearing “Biden’s Border Crisis: Part 1.”
“It is not ‘Biden’s border crisis.’ This has been a crisis for over half a century. From Nixon and every American president after him, they have not addressed this issue,” Lieu said.
Several Democrats also slammed Republicans use of hateful speech and political theatrics, saying scare tactics won’t solve issues at the border.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) said the rhetoric that Republicans often use amounts to racism and inspires violent acts, such as the attacker who massacred 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso in 2019.
“Our words have power, I want to remind our committee of that, our words have consequences,” Escobar told her colleagues during the hearing.
Judge Ricardo Samaniego, of El Paso County, Texas, who was invited to testify, disputed many claims made by Republicans on the committee including the notion that there is more crime because of migrants.
“Claiming this continues a false, racist narrative against these individuals and perpetuates violence that the El Paso community is all too familiar with,” Samaniego said.
Many House Republicans are also blaming the fentanyl problem on failure to impose strict border control policies. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), for instance, introduced a border control bill that would allow for the barring of border crossings, even for asylum seekers.
Brandon Dunn, co-founder of Forever 15 Project, an organization aimed at ending fentanyl poisoning, lost his son after taking a drug laced with fentanyl last year. He said he wants to see better border control legislation because any amount smuggled across the border is enough to kill thousands.
“For us, this isn’t a political issue, this is an issue about the safety of our children and the citizens of this country,” Dunn said.
However, Democrats and Republicans did not agree on the source of the issue and how to solve it.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,) said Republicans seem intent on demonizing migrant families and portraying them as fentanyl traffickers. He cited a Customs and Border Patrol finding that 83% of smuggled fentanyl was found at legal points of entry. Lieu also cited a CBP finding that U.S. citizens were 86.3% of those convicted for fentanyl smuggling.
“If we really want to tackle the bulk of this issue, what we want to do is strengthen the technology at legal points of entry at the ports of entry and give border patrol more resources to address the fentanyl seizures,” said Lieu.
Roy contended that Border Patrol enforcement was being overwhelmed with responsibilities of both processing migrants and stopping illicit drugs from crossing the border.
“The idea that the fact that fentanyl is caught at ports of entry and that that is the only place it’s coming through is belied by the facts that Border Patrol is now distracted processing human beings,” said Roy.
Several committee Democrats said they would be willing to work with House Republicans on meaningful border control legislation if they stop their rhetoric and start negotiating within their own party and across the aisle.
“Sadly, at every turn, this Republican majority fails to offer genuine solutions, and resorts to political theater. Our colleagues across the aisle can’t even negotiate in good faith with each other let alone with us,” Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said.