Republicans Proceed With Hearing to Investigate the Border Crisis Despite Biden Stonewalling
FAIR Take | February 2023
On Tuesday, February 7, at 10 am, the House Oversight and Accountability Committee will hold a hearing entitled “On the Front Lines of the Border Crisis: A Hearing with Chief Patrol Agents,” after stonewalling attempts by the Biden administration. With Republicans having a newly-minted majority in the House (and on the Oversight committee), this figures to be just the first in a long string of hearings focused on the Biden Border Crisis in the 118th Congress. The hearing will feature sworn testimony from two Chief Patrol Agents, also known as sector chiefs: Gloria Chavez of the Rio Grande Valley (TX) Sector, and John Modlin of the Tucson sector. While this is an encouraging first step, the Oversight committee should ultimately hear from all twenty sector chiefs who work along both the northern and southern borders to fully understand the raging border crisis and its impact on national security.
When the hearing was announced, four witnesses were slated to appear. In addition to Chavez, Oversight chairman James Comer (R-KY) also invited Chief Patrol Agents Gregory Bovino of the El Centro (CA) sector, Jason Owens of the Del Rio (TX) sector, and Patricia McGurk-Daniel of the Yuma sector. At the same time, Comer wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas requesting documents and communications related to the border crisis, including the number of illegal aliens released into the U.S. interior under Biden, any plan to secure operational control of the border, the termination of “Remain in Mexico,” the effect of the border crisis on Border Patrol retention, staffing, and morale, the drop in ICE enforcement actions, and the involvement of non-governmental organizations in catch-and-release, among other things.
Once the administration caught wind of the sector chief invitations, they initially blocked them from testifying, no doubt fearful they might reveal the ugly truth about the Biden Border Crisis and put them in an embarrassing spot. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instead offered Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz and the sector chiefs a member-level briefing away from the public eye. While Ortiz is not a political appointee subject to Senate confirmation, he is willing to toe the open-borders line favored by the administration. For context, Ortiz was named chief when Rodney Scott was unfairly forced out for refusing to implement Biden’s insane border policies in the summer of 2021. His testimony assuredly would have downplayed the crisis and carried water for the administration.
Comer responded with another letter on January 27, arguing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was “obstructing Congressional oversight” and adding their “internal protocols are not binding on Congress, and it is irrelevant whether DHS disagrees with the Committee’s determination that these four law enforcement professionals should testify at a Committee hearing.” The letter ended with a warning that Comer would use “the compulsory process” (subpoenas) if the administration did not relent. Ultimately, the administration allowed two sector chiefs to testify: Chavez and Modlin, the latter a replacement for McGurk-Daniel. While this is a small victory, it’s still unconscionable that Biden did not allow Owens or Bovino to testify.
The sector chiefs will face questions from a number of firebrands on the Oversight committee, including Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), and Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL), among others. Republicans are anticipating that officials lower down the chain of command and closer to the day-to-day work may contradict the testimony of Alejandro Mayorkas, who has repeatedly claimed the border is secure despite obvious evidence otherwise. As Comer said in announcing the hearing, “Republicans will hold the Biden Administration accountable for this ongoing humanitarian, national security, and public health crisis that has turned every town into a border town.”