The House Freedom Caucus held an unofficial congressional hearing on Tuesday addressing the ongoing crisis at the southwestern border. The two-hour hearing was held at the headquarters of Freedom Works in Washington D.C. as members of Congress grilled a group of four witnesses and experts over the border crisis.
The unusual venue of the hearing, just a few blocks away from Capitol Hill, was selected because Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to hold a hearing over the current status of the southwest border, according to the chairman of the hearing Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who said that “we’re going to do something about it even if they’re not going to do something about it.”
The situation at the border is reaching truly astonishing levels since the Biden Administration took office last year. Just in FY 2021, Border Patrol reported more than 1.7 million encounters in the southwestern border, while just in the first three months of FY 2022 there has been a total of 518,360 border encounters made by CBP. To put these figures into perspective, the 2019 migratory surge of the Trump administration had a total of 977,509 border encounters throughout the entire fiscal year.
The witnesses for the hearing were the president of the National Border Patrol Council Brandon Judd, former USCIS acting director Joseph Edlow, the former counterintelligence chief of Texas Todd Bensman, and Russell Johnson, a New Mexico cattle rancher.
Reversing Trump’s policies and shattering the Border Patrol morale
According to Brandon Judd, the current policy of the Biden administration towards the border is the main culprit for what’s happening today at the border. For Judd, the decision by the Democrats to “done away with all the successes that President Trump was able to accomplish” has created this crisis, arguing that what the Border Patrol needs is not more tools or equipment but a change of policy from the top of the leadership.
Judd, who served as a border patrol agent for decades, also criticized the Biden administration for eroding the morale of the CBP. “The morale is at the lowest it’s ever been” said Judd, pointing out that the agency lost more agents last year than they were able to hire. For him, this is the result of a deliberate policy by the Biden administration to weaken the Border Patrol, saying “for all of his failures (…) he has succeeded in something, he has broken the border patrol.”
Edlow explained that this surge in border crossings has not been met with a proportional law-enforcement response but with leniency that has been ordered from the higher levels of power in the federal government.
Witnesses accused the UN of financing the migrant crisis
Todd Bensam accused the United Nations of giving legal and financial aid to the migrants who are going to the United States. According to Bensam, the UN “appear to be working side by side with the criminal smuggling organizations (…) UN agencies are providing hard cash, food, shelter, legal services psychological services all along the migrant trail.”
Bensam said that, while on a trip to the southern border, he saw a long line of migrants receiving a $400 debit card given by the UN, including the “unrestricted usable plastic card cash, and cash-filled envelopes” , this is a claim that has been contested by the United Nations, who argues that while the UN does provide help to migrants, that aid is not unconditional and that the organizations that give this type of aid to migrants are not directly part of the UN, albeit they do receive funding from the organization.
A border controlled by drug dealers and human traffickers
Another of the most discussed issues in the hearing was that the biggest winners of the current situation at the border are the drug cartels and human traffickers who manage the border crossings. Human trafficking has become one of the most lucrative sources of revenue for criminal cartels in Mexico, and they have expanded their network profoundly over the last few years.
When asked by Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) how much control the drug cartels have over the border, Mr. Judd said that the cartels “dictate to us what our operations are going to be.” These same cartels argued Judd, force immigrants to work as indenture servitude to the cartels until they are able to pay off the massive fee they are charged for being smuggled to the United States.
The members of Congress also were extremely worried over the continuous flow of drugs (especially fentanyl) to the United States. The U.S. has been suffering a historic opioid crisis, as the CDC reported more than 73,000 overdose deaths from opioids last year alone. Todd Bensam, a fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies, said it was not only people who are coming from the border but also a huge amount of fentanyl trafficking as well.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), a physician, reminded the dangers of fentanyl as a “very, very small amount can be lethal” meaning that a very large quantity can be transported in a small space through the border. Harris noted that there could be “hundred, two hundred million pills (of fentanyl) trafficked across the border (…) that’s just astounding” and criticized “how the Congress of the United States, the administration stand by and see thousands, tens of thousands of Americans, many young Americans, die needlessly while we have a border that is obviously porous to such a dangerous substance.”
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.