Wednesday’s field hearing in McAllen, Texas, held by the House Committee on Homeland Security but boycotted at the last minute by Democrats on the committee, managed to expose the failure of President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s open border policies.
It also put the Biden administration in a tough position, as its own Border Patrol chief made several statements at odds with the false narrative officials have sought to establish.
First, and most significant, was the very first answer of the entire hearing. Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-TN) asked Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz whether he believed the Department of Homeland Security has “operational control” of the southwest border.
Ortiz answered that he did not—a logical conclusion for anyone with basic observational skills, let alone a decadeslong veteran of the Border Patrol. However, this statement put him at odds with his boss, Mayorkas, who told the House Judiciary Committee last year that DHS did have operational control of the border. By any measure, Mayorkas is either lying or ignorant. We’re putting our money on the former.
Second, this wasn’t the only statement Ortiz made counter to the Biden line. He also told the committee the border wall system was a “helpful” tool in maintaining border security, and when asked whether it was a mistake for Biden to shut down border wall construction, Ortiz said, “Yes sir.” He even said five of nine southwest border sectors were not secure, again contradicting previous testimony from Mayorkas.
Ortiz has historically failed to challenge DHS’s devastating policies. Emails obtained by the Heritage Foundation’s Oversight Project show he criticized the administration’s politicized response to the false “whipping” scandal in Del Rio but failed to contradict Mayorkas and Biden or defend his agents publicly. This hearing is a good starting point to change that pattern.
Third, Ortiz also revealed that the number of known got-aways—those who illegally enter the country and evade apprehension—is actually much higher than reported. Customs and Border Protection has recorded more than 1.4 million got-aways since Biden took office and opened the border, pulling thousands of Border Patrol agents off the line and forcing them into administrative duties, processing and releasing illegal aliens into the country.
Ortiz said the number could actually be 10%-20% higher than reported. That’s a shocking admission of how bad things are getting.
Fourth, Ortiz’s testimony took a sledgehammer to the Left’s absurd talking point that the fentanyl crisis is not connected to the border crisis.
“What we’ve seen this fiscal year is a 101% increase in fentanyl seizures in between the ports of entry,” he said. “So far, 1,117 pounds of fentanyl have been seized by our Border Patrol agents in between the ports of entry.”
Fifth, Ortiz stated that a major aspect of CBP’s mission under the Biden administration has become “the processing enterprise.” In other words, securing the border and apprehending those who come across illegally has taken a backseat to the processing and releasing of illegal aliens into the country as fast as possible.
That’s why the crisis continues. CBP has been diverted from its core mission to safeguard our nation’s borders, as has Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Per Biden’s own budget, money for CBP to pursue physical security improvements at the border will be cut by $14.7 billion over the next 10 years. ICE’s budget to detain and deport those here illegally will be cut by more than $21 billion.
In fiscal 2020, ICE set a target of 151,000 removals of illegal aliens with a criminal record. It achieved a respectable 103,762, even with the onset of COVID-19. This budget’s target? A laughable 29,389, despite tens of thousands more criminal aliens now in our country. And ICE only removed 38,447 such aliens in fiscal 2022!
Ortiz was finally forced to tell people the truth concerning the underlying cause of Biden’s open border disaster, which affects our nation’s safety and national security. It’s up to Republicans in Congress to fix it.
This piece originally appeared in the Washington Examiner