Congress Conducts Oversight on Maritime Border Crisis
FAIR Take | March 2023
The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing last Thursday on the national security challenges facing our maritime borders. The hearing examined how President Biden’s open border policies have resulted in mass illegal immigration and included many stories of tragedies of those taking to sea to enter the United States.
Among the witnesses present were Rear Admiral Jo-Ann F. Burdian (U.S. Coast Guard); Jonathan Miller, Executive Director for Operations, Air and Marine Operations (U.S. Customs and Border Protection); Brigadier General Sean T. Boyette (Florida National Guard), and Heather MacLeod (Government Accountability Office).
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) said that he was “intimately familiar with the migratory and illegal narcotics crisis on the open sea, and along our coasts.” Since August 2022, nearly 11,000 migrants were repatriated to their home country after attempting to cross the Florida straights, stating the situation is “untenable.”
The Chairman continued to say that since the start of the Biden Administration, the President’s policies “have caused unlawful migration to surge month after month, creating an unprecedented situation” and that the “drug crisis in our country is unsustainable and is a direct result of the failed policies this administration has pursued.”
Conversely, the Democrat members argued that the hearing was political theater. Ranking Member Thanedar (D-Mich.) discussed how migrants are desperate to enter the U.S. and that a “vast majority of migrants taking to the sea are coming from Haiti and Cuba.” He suggested that the Republicans were more interested in blaming the Biden Administration than passing legislation.
According to Mr. Miller, over the past three years, CBP’s Air and Marine Operations division conducted “approximately 293,000 flight hours and 221,000 float hours, resulting in the arrest of 3,152 suspects, the apprehension of more than 304,000 migrants, the seizure of nearly 3,200 weapons and $146.6 million in currency, and the interdiction of nearly two million pounds of illegal drugs, including 769,000 pounds of cocaine.”
Brigadier General Boyette discussed how Governor DeSantis issued an executive order to activate the National Guard to support interdiction efforts. To date, he stated, the cost of that effort has exceeded $50 million.
In her testimony, Ms. MacLeod referenced a GAO report which found that “the Coast Guard and CBP [have] experienced challenges with acquisition programs that support their law enforcement missions … which include providing law enforcement and maritime security capabilities across a range of sea conditions and locations.” The report added that these acquisition programs for law enforcement efforts currently face “significant cost and schedule concerns.”
To view the full hearing, click here.