Meijer Opening Statement In Hearing On Disrupting Transnational Crime
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI), Ranking Member of the Oversight, Management & Accountability Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statement in a subcommittee hearing entitled, “DHS’s Efforts to Disrupt Transnational Criminal Organizations in Central America.”
Ranking Member Meijer’s Opening Statement
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing today.
I look forward to having a frank and in-depth discussion with our witnesses today, and I hope we can delve into the reality of the situation in the Northern Triangle and get a better sense of the threat that these Transnational Criminal Organizations, or TCOs, pose to the region and how they are fueling the exodus of families and civilians from the area to our southern border.
While this is the third hearing that this subcommittee has held on the Northern Triangle region in an effort to better understand the range of push factors that contribute to migration, this is the first one we’ve had with government witnesses. This allows us the chance to hear directly from CBP and HSI about the threat posed by TCOs in the area and the effect they have on citizens of those countries as they travel through Mexico to our southern border.
As I stated in the first hearing, this Administration has compounded the problem at the border by failing to adequately dissuade those who want to illegally cross our borders. Although I do not fault those who seek a better life for their families, we now find ourselves in a border crisis where too many individuals and families have been making the choice to enter the U.S. illegally at the encouragement of the Administration.
On July 14th, we passed the threshold of one million border crossings in the last fiscal year. There are many reasons why people in the Northern Triangle choose to migrate, and we have discussed those at length in the previous hearings. It is clear, however, that many actions taken by this Administration have resulted in the crisis we’re still seeing today.
On June 15th, the Administration provided an update on the actions that have been taken to improve the border crisis and highlighted a number of accomplishments, including a significant reduction in the number of unaccompanied children being held in Customs and Border Protection facilities. What the Administration’s announcement fails to mention, however, is that the issue has not been resolved. Just last month, we hit an unfortunate new record of 15,253 unaccompanied minors who were encountered by CBP at the border.
The bottleneck has simply been shifted from CBP to Health and Human Services, which is now responsible for housing unaccompanied minors around the country, including at a facility in my district. In the first hearing on this topic, this committee heard from Sheriff Steve Hinkley of Calhoun County Michigan, as he described the strain that the shift in Administration policy has placed on local law enforcement, and the lack of coordination and assistance provided by the federal government in enacting this new procedure.
Unfortunately, there are instances of unaccompanied minors, as well as adults, arriving at our southern border as a result of human trafficking operations. I am looking forward to engaging with our witnesses today to learn more about their agencies’ efforts to combat criminal organizations in the region that conduct these kinds of operations and determine what additional resources DHS may need to prevent future humanitarian and security crises in the region.
I am hopeful that we will use this opportunity today to engage on specific strategies and potential solutions that Congress and the Administration can pursue together in order to productively address these challenges in a responsible and effective way.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.