As the crisis at the southwest border rapidly intensifies, every state has now bec-ome a border state, and every community is affected by this administration’s destructive policies. As Border Patrol resources are shifted from the northern and coastal borders to aid overwhe-lmed and overextended law enforcement at the so-uthwest border, we expose ourselves to serious national security threats.
What is worse is a lack of clarity, information, and access by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. While the Biden administration fails to provide any transparency into the conditions at the border, we will continue to shine a light on the impact these policies have on our homeland security and for communities across the country. Our recent trips to the border uncovered security gaps that cannot go unaddressed. The border crisis is no longer a distant reality for millions of Americans. It’s now surfacing in their backyards. This is not hyperbole.
Migrants who entered this country illegally through Mexico are being put on commercial aircraft and busses to cities across the country within days — if not hours – without confirmation of a negative COVID-19 test being required. Meanwhile, Americans are required to present a negative test. From February 19 to April 22, TSA assisted approximately 7,200 migrants at 10 border airports in document verification, allowing them to bypass standard government-issued photo ID requirements and board domestic flights.
DHS has created a special process for migrants to be transported on domestic flights without abiding by the same rules that apply to US citizens. For migrants without fingerprints in federal systems and proper documentation, the Department is taking them at their word about their biographic information. Meanwhile Border Patrol has identified “many adults” claiming to be minors to exploit this administration’s border policies through the initial layer of screening that is still being done.
Whether it is the overwhelming presence of MS-13 gang violence in suburban Long Island, New York, or the crippling impact of the opioid crisis across Central New York, every American community bears the brunt of weak border security. When the southwest border is lawless, it’s the fabric of all our communities that suffer. Bad actors and criminals a-re working the system at t-he southwest border as w-e’ve seen multiple known or suspected terrorists (K-STs) do this year. I also fear as resources are rerouted to the southwest border, we a-re leaving the northern border particularly vulnerable.
This is not only a humanitarian crisis, but a national security crisis in the making. As Border Patrol agents are being pulled off the line to process migrants at overflowing facilities, drug traffickers, smugglers and cartels are leveraging their expansive networks to smuggle drugs into the United States. The drugs pouring across our weakened borders are flowing into our communities and killing our neighbors and loved ones.
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) are the greatest drug trafficking threat to the United States. They successfully control a significant portion of the US drug market and have established diverse transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities, and hold strong affiliations with criminal groups and gangs in the US to help distribute their product and launder their profits.
Mexican TCOs have established underground laboratories in Mexico to develop fentanyl, and Mexican authorities have encountered a rise in illegal fentanyl pill press and tableting operations. Furthermore, Mexican TCOs are responsible for the production and trafficking across the southwest border of the overwhelming majority of the heroin available in the US
Since President Biden’s reversal of the last administration’s strong border security policies, CBP has been forced to encounter high volumes of hard narcotics entering our country. In fact, according to CBP, more fentanyl has been seized in FY2021 so far than was seized in all FY2020. While these seizures are testament to the training and professionalism of our CBP law enforcement officers, with open border policies acting as a magnet and the illicit drug trade operating at such levels, a significant amount of drugs will inevitably make their way into our homeland. This shouldn’t be a surprise. We all know that lax border security policies embolden narcos.
According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, an estimated 81,000 people died from a drug overdose between June 2019 and May 2020, the highest number ever recorded in a 12-month period. Drug overdose deaths are something we are all too familiar with in the communities I represent in Central New York. Central New York’s Onondaga County Health Department reported 121 opioid overdose deaths through the end of September 2020, up from 86 deaths reported for the same period in 2019. The nine-month total nearly matched the county’s opioid death toll of 127 for all of 2019.
Most of these drugs come into our country through the southwest border, after we implemented stricter enforcement in the mail environment. We were already fighting an uphill battle in our states, we didn’t need President Biden making these dangerous drugs any more accessible.
If President Biden were serious about combatting the nation’s drug overdose epidemic, he would reconsider his weak policies. Strong, common sense border security policies are critical not only to hamstring the TCOs but also to keep Americans safe.
The most humane course of action would be to reinstate policies that previously kept the situation at the border manageable and restore the rule of law—reinstate the Migrant Protection Protocols, restart construction of the border wall system, protect the use of title 42 authorities, and engage with partner nations to reinstate joint efforts to limit irregular migration. Unless the administration takes decisive action, this will continue to be about managing a crisis on the border rather than fixing our broken immigration system and securing the border. Homeland security affects every American in every state across the country. This is no longer limited to a problem for communities along the southwest border—this is a national community problem.
As the Republican leader of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I will keep the pressure on. Our committee will continue offering the sensible solutions the American people demand and conducting consistent oversight of crisis at the southwest border until we can ensure the security of our homeland.