Republican Members Visit Border, Share Shocking Realities
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. John Katko (R-NY), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and members of the Homeland Security Committee just returned from a trip to South Texas, where they got a firsthand look at the daily operations of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Texas State law enforcement partners during the current border crisis.
Joining Katko on the trip were Reps. Kat Cammack (R-FL), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Michael Guest (R-MS), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), Peter Meijer (R-MI), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA).
During the visit, members visited CBP’s Donna Processing Facility, participated in ride alongs with the Texas Rangers and Texas Highway Patrol, met with HSI special agents to discuss cross-border criminal investigations, toured the Hidalgo and Pharr Ports of Entry, visited the CBP Air and Marine Operations aircraft hangar, and received briefings from numerous authorities responding to the crisis.
Here’s what members learned on the ground:
Double Standard: Members saw firsthand how DHS is facilitating the transportation of migrants being released into the interior on domestic flights, likely paid for by American taxpayers, without legitimate ID. In addition, while American citizens traveling internationally are required to present a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine upon return to the U.S., there is no requirement for a negative COVID-19 test for these migrants.
Pulled Off The Line: In the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector, 40% of agents have been pulled from their national security duties to assist with migrant processing and transportation. This leaves undeniable gaps in our border security posture and will undoubtedly lead to an increase in gotaways.
Gotaways: In FY21 to date, there have been an estimated 15,000 gotaways in the RGV sector alone.
Over Capacity: On Monday, CBP’s Donna Processing Facility was at 420% capacity. The facility’s COVID-19 capacity is 500 individuals, yet 2,600 individuals were in custody. Members were told two tender-age children currently at the facility have been there for 17 days – two weeks longer than the 72 hour legal requirement.
High Cost: The Donna Processing Facility costs $19.2 million per month to operate. Members were told that $50,000 per month is coming out of CBP’s operational funds to pay for diapers and other consumables that were not budgeted for.
Forced To Release Thousands: CBP in the RGV sector has been forced to release over 30,000 illegal family units into the interior in FY21 to date. They have also had to release illegal single adults into the interior who cannot be expelled under Title 42. Chief Patrol Agent Hastings has previously said if we lose the ability to hold single adults, we lose the border.
Testing Positive: 10% of individuals leaving CBP custody in the RGV sector are testing positive for COVID-19, a major public health concern for CBP personnel and American citizens who encounter these individuals.
Cartel Activity: Cartels have scouts constantly monitoring Texas DPS and CBP law enforcement. During a night ride along with Texas DPS Special Operations Group, suspected smugglers were using music to signal law enforcement movements along the brush. Texas DPS has also discovered TikTok videos showing armed cartel members monitoring U.S. law enforcement.
Drug & Human Smuggling: Agents said, “the federal government is becoming the biggest facilitator of human smuggling across the border” by not delivering consequences when people break the law. Smugglers are advertising on Facebook about safe passage for migrants who want to come to the United States. Agents also shared that cartels place advertisements for drivers on Craigslist to smuggle people and goods across the border and also try to recruit Uber drivers.
Walls Work: In places where the border wall system was built in the RGV sector, Border Patrol relayed that they were able to gain operational control of the border. The wall system shifted 80% of illicit activity away from areas where it was constructed to areas without physical barriers. Because the Biden Administration suspended wall construction, large amounts of rebar and building materials are currently scattered across communities. In one neighborhood, a road was fully deconstructed and has yet to be repaired.