WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee attacked the Biden administration Wednesday for policies they claimed encourage undocumented immigration and allow a flood of drugs across the southern border.
At a session on “the Biden border crisis,” the committee’s first hearing of the new Congress, representatives discussed issues ranging from the fentanyl epidemic to processing asylum seekers.
The hearing was part of a series of investigations in which House Republicans plan to use their new majority to denounce the Biden administration.
“Month after month after month, we have set records for migrants coming into the country, and frankly I think it’s intentional,” Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in his opening statement, “I don’t know how anyone with common sense or logic can reach any other conclusion.”
Dueling narratives emerged during the hearing. The Republicans blamed President Joe Biden for high numbers of migrants coming across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Democrats on the other hand accused Republicans of using the hearing for “showboating,” as Ranking Member Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., put it. They argued the committee should pursue solutions for problems at the border that ensure the rule of law while also treating migrants humanely.
According to The Washington Post, preliminary data from Customs and Border Patrol shows the number of migrants apprehended at the southern border fell to around 150,000 last month. This is down from the record-high 251,487 border encounters in December and is the lowest since February 2021.
This comes as the Biden administration has announced an expanded parole program for people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The issue of fentanyl was of particular focus. Texan Brandon Dunn wiped his eyes while testifying about how his son, Noah, died of a fentanyl overdose from taking what he thought was a Percocet pill.
Democrats pointed out that the vast majority of fentanyl smuggled into the U.S. enters through legal ports of entry, and that most is brought in by U.S. citizens.
However, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, argued that the high number of migrants is overwhelming the Border Patrol, preventing agents from adequately searching for fentanyl.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego pushed back against the narrative of mass crime cited by Republicans as occurring at the southern border.
“There is no invasion of migrants in our community, nor are there hordes of undocumented immigrants committing crimes against citizens or causing havoc in our community,” Samaniego said in his testimony. “Claiming this perpetuates a false, racist narrative.”
He said migrants seeking asylum usually present themselves to the Border Patrol for processing, and that more resources are needed to process them.
However, some Republicans accused the Biden administration of being soft on undocumented migrants.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said President Joe Biden has told Immigration and Customs Enforcement not to remove asylum-seekers whose claims have been rejected.
This is an apparent reference to a September 2021 directive by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which instructed ICE to prioritize arresting undocumented immigrants who recently entered the United States or are deemed to pose a threat to public safety, effectively exempting other undocumented immigrants without serious criminal records from enforcement.
Buck said this encourages migrants to come to the United States, as they believe they will not be sent away.
Similarly, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said he has heard Border Patrol agents complain, “‘Don’t send us more money. They’ll only use it to process illegals faster into this country.'”
“And I think the testimony’s been bringing that out very clearly today,” McClintock said.