Chief Border Patrol Agents Testify on Crisis, Paint a Bleak Picture
On February 7, 2023 the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability heard from two of the nine border patrol sector chiefs on the state of our Southwest Border.
Overall, the hearing was a good first step to understanding what our border agents are facing and how they are handling the challenges. With a combined 54 years of Service, Border Chiefs John Modlin from Tuscon Sector and Chief Gloria Chavez of the Rio Grande Valley Sector, provided the committee with their recent experiences in combatting human smuggling and drug trafficking, and detailed the threats that criminals and cartels pose to the men and women who protect our border.
The border patrol chiefs painted a bleak picture.
Chief Chavez stated that her sector agents “face the most egregious of illicit trends such as criminal migrants, gang members, hard narcotics, firearms, both currency outbound and illicit drones used for counter surveillance.” Chief Modlin added that his sector alone seized 700 pounds of fentanyl in the last year and said “that’s enough to kill everyone in Arizona 21 times, or basically half the population of the United States.” The border sector chiefs also discussed how their agents are overwhelmed, often doing rescues to assist those in danger and having to work in remote areas to apprehend individuals. Many agents are being pulled from the line to do processing work, increasing the number of “gotaways” who slip into the interior.
According to the most recent data, December was the worst month on record since the agency began collecting statistics:
- In total, there were 251,487 encounters along the southwest land border in December, a 7 percent increase compared to November.
- Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of all southwest land border encounters were single adults, with 161,808 encounters in December, a 2.3 percent increase compared to November.
- 17 migrants on the FBI terror watch list.
- Over 70,000 known “gotaways.”
In an attempt to blunt honest testimony of the two chiefs, the Border Patrol also submitted written testimony, clearly reviewed and approved by political appointees, which claimed its immigration policies were a success and that they have actually reduced the number of illegal border crossers. “While irregular migration levels have remained elevated for several years, there has been a marked decrease since the announcement of new border enforcement measures in January 2023.”
However, what the Administration refers to as “new border enforcement measures” includes the launch of an illegal parole program. Parole is a mechanism that allows border officials let in aliens who do not have visas (and typically would not qualify for visas). Parole is supposed to be used only sparingly, and under the law, may only be used on a case-by-case basis or for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.
Thus, the Biden Administration’s new “border enforcement measures” amount to nothing more than simply letting hundreds of thousands of aliens who don’t have visas hop over the border. It not only violates the parole statute, but it makes these aliens appear legal, when in reality they have no legal status at all. Moreover, because they are “paroled” into the U.S. instead of illegally crossing the border, the statistics for illegal crossings are now beginning to decline.
Are we seeing a dramatic change in border crossings? Not according to Chief Modlin. “We went from what I would describe as “unprecedented” to a point where I don’t have the correct adjective to describe what is going on.”
In response, Democrat lawmakers suggested that part of the solution is an increase in funding for Border Patrol agents, personnel at ports of entry, and technology. However, it should be noted that the omnibus appropriations bill included nearly one billion dollars for shelter and services with a clear caveat that it could not be used for border security. Now, open borders advocates are suggesting that Republicans blocked crucial funding to stem the flow, even though they controlled the House, Senate and White House.
Democrats also suggested that “comprehensive” immigration reform is needed to solve problem. Ranking Member Raskin talked at length about the need to pass amnesty legislation. “Our basic problem,” he stated, “is a political one: legal channels of immigration have been choked off in the wake of Congressional failure to act in bipartisan fashion on immigration policy.” Rep. Raskin blamed Republicans for this failure. “Republicans driven by the MAGA wing have been systematically thwarting and derailing comprehensive efforts to improve America’s immigration system and strengthen border enforcement for years.”
But, as noted in our summary of last week’s hearing, the Administration’s new “pathways” and calls for amnesty do not secure the border – they only encourage more illegal immigration. The most effective and immediate solution is to restore the policies that were in place before Biden created an open border crisis. Even Chief Chavez said the “Remain in Mexico” policy was “effective” and “helped manage capacity.”
If President Biden truly wants to end the crisis he created, he should listen to agents on the front lines and, at the same time, Congress should continue to seek the testimony and unfiltered view from the other border sectors. After all, these are the brave men and women who work every day to protect our safety and freedoms.