Republicans hint at midterm election strategy as they spread blame for rising illegal immigration, migrant deaths and fentanyl smuggling on the southern border
EL PASO, Texas (Borders Report) — Leaders of the Republican House of Representatives and former Trump officials on Wednesday urged their Democratic counterparts to keep Title 42 to avoid further spikes in illegal immigration and to prevent deadly drugs like fentanyl from crossing the reach the border with Mexico.
They also accused the Biden administration of losing operational control as an estimated 700,000 people evaded border officials over the past 16 months. This is in addition to the more than 2 million documented encounters that resulted in migrants being either deported back to Mexico or released to the US with a mandatory order to appear in an immigration court.
“We allowed 2.5 million people into our country illegally who we caught. That’s bigger than the city of Houston, Texas. […] And, as mentioned, at least 700,000 escaped as far as we know. Dozens of people we caught were on the terrorist watch list, which begs the question how many more people who were not caught were on the terrorist watch list? said House Minority Whip US Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.
GOP leaders and their guests reiterated allegations at an online press conference Wednesday that the president is pursuing an “open borders” policy that strengthens Mexican drug cartels and threatens national security. But they also blame their Democratic counterparts in an election year when political pundits say immigration and border security could sway some voters.
“We are also feeling this crisis in states like New York. Every state is a border state, every county is a border county,” said US Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York. “House Republicans remain determined to hold Democrats accountable for this disastrous failure. You have no country if you don’t have secure borders.”
U.S. Representative Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, added: “Often times people come to Washington and they’re going to whine, they’re going to complain about all the things that are wrong, and they’re going to blame the White House. We do not do that. […] This isn’t a Republican issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue and it starts right here in Congress, it starts right here in the House of Representatives.”
Some former Trump officials, such as Mark Morgan, who was acting chief of US Customs and Border Protection, also weighed in.
“I’m confident that if we can get the right people in Congress who know that we should start talking about America, which is in the best interests of American citizens, we should […] It’s time to be honest with the American people, it’s time to get the issue across: It’s about border security, it’s about national security,” Morgan said.
The GOP attack is only likely to intensify as the election approaches, analysts say.
“Immigration is definitely going to be a midterm election issue this year,” said Richard Pineda, associate professor of communications at the University of Texas at El Paso. “The Biden administration probably has very good intentions on immigration, but I don’t think they built the infrastructure or had good policy goals.”
The administration has also struggled to clearly communicate its immigration goals, he said.
“Either Biden comes up with a very concrete plan, or this is the first step in a comprehensive immigration (reform) process. But right now, it’s unclear to most people what the administration is trying to do. It’s not clear how to measure effectiveness,” Pineda said.
And that adds to Americans’ concerns about inflation and a successful transition out of the COVID-19 crisis and economic recovery, he said.
In the absence of this, the GOP supporters will continue their attacks.
Current, former immigration officials say Biden endangers migrants
Republicans and their guests on Wednesday chastised Democrats for justifying the release of migrants under the guise of compassion when their actions allegedly attract more migration and put vulnerable women and children into the hands of drug cartels.
“We hear[border guards]saying phrases like ‘broken arrow’ all the time. That’s used when the last line of defense is overwhelmed, which means we’ve surrendered our southern border to the cartels,” Morgan said. “And what happens if we overwhelm our system with illegal immigration? 50, 60, 80 percent of our agents in some areas are being pulled from the front lines, pulled from their national security jobs, to be nothing more than travel agents for illegal immigrants.”
Other guests, including Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council, said what some people see as compassion towards migrants actually contributes to their harassment.
“What we see today is not human, is not compassion. It is the empowerment of wealthy transnational criminal organizations that exploit and harass innocent women and children.” said Judd. “We see a government issuing policies that encourage women and children to put themselves in the hands of the most dangerous people on earth. These people rape, abuse and sometimes murder (them). And that’s because the policies of this government allow these cartels to enter countries around the world and advertise their services.”