McALLEN, Texas (NewsNation) — Texas border officials testified that the U.S. government does not currently have operational control over the border at a hearing with Republican members of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
In his opening remarks, committee Chair Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., accused President Joe Biden‘s administration of violating the laws written by Congress and signed by former President Donald Trump.
“It’s clear to me … this secretary of DHS wants nothing more than to flood the country with people,” Green said. “The problem with that is, it’s empowered the narco-human-trafficking, terrorist cartels.”
GOP members of the committee traveled to McAllen, Texas, Wednesday to hear testimony from residents impacted by the situation at the border.
This was the second border security-related congressional hearing to be held by House Republican leaders so far this year in the Rio Grande Valley.
The hearing was held to examine if there is a link between Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas‘ border policies and an increase in undocumented migrants crossing the southern border, according to the committee.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified that the border has seen more than 9,000 migrant encounters so far this year. He also testified that he is worried about the well-being of Border Patrol agents, saying that 17 CBP agents died by suicide in 2022.
Art Roderick, former Department of Homeland Security senior manager, told NewsNation the issue is only growing.
“Now we’re seeing these numbers just exponentially jump off the charts,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
Ortiz testified that the government does not currently have operational control over the border, refuting what Mayorkas had previously said.
Col. Steven McCraw, executive director of Texas Homeland Security, and Sheriff Brad Coe of Kinney County, Texas, echoed the same sentiments during their respective testimonies.
However, Ortiz said he has worked with Mayorkas to increase consequences for “criminal aliens,” saying they’ve seen more “criminal aliens” apprehended in the last 24 months than they’ve seen previously.
“We need more officers on the front lines,” Ortiz said.
According to a copy of witness testimony obtained by NewsNation, the committee is also expected to hear requests for more CBP agents.
Coe described the area as being under siege by illegal immigrants.
“My office has six full-time deputies and eight part-time to cover the 1,370 square miles of the county. This causes large areas of the county to go unpatrolled,” Coe testified.
Green took aim at decision-making by Biden and Mayokas on NewsNation’s “On Balance With Leland Vittert” Tuesday night.
“I think Americans are becoming more aware that the risk of what’s happened with the cartels and the drug trafficking in the U.S.,” Green said. “Human trafficking is a risk to every American. And as more people make that realization, the pressure grows on Biden and his administration. We also have to realize that the current crisis is a result of Alejandro Mayorkas’ decisions and the president’s decisions. And I think Americans are waking up to that, too.”
Roderick noted that the cartels have had decades to grow, and tackling the problem now will take significant resources.
“These cartels are very huge now,” he said. “They’re very well-resourced, very well-armed, and it might take military assistance to help in this particular situation.”
Just last month, Biden announced a new rule barring migrants from applying for asylum if they have traveled through other countries on their way to the border. His latest budget proposal includes $25 billion for CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, including money for 350 more Border Patrol agents.
“Every policy that allows us to repatriate or reduce the flow of migrants is certainly going to increase our operational effectiveness and our ability to control that border,” Ortiz said.
None of the committee’s 15 Democrats will make the trip to Texas. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., accused committee Republicans of politicizing the event.
“After careful consideration, Committee Democrats have decided not to participate in the Republicans’ field hearing this week,” Thompson said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “Unfortunately, it has become clear that Republicans planned to politicize this event from the start, breaking with the committee’s proud history of bipartisanship. Instead of a fact-finding mission to develop better border security and immigration policies, Republicans are traveling to the border to attack the administration and try to score political points with their extreme rhetoric — despite having voted against the resources border personnel need.”
“House Democrats have the chance to see firsthand the disastrous impact of Biden’s open border policies,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted. “Instead, they’re bailing.”
Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Chris Olivarez stressed the importance of holding field hearings when it comes to addressing the southern border. He said that there needs to be a bipartisan discussion in order to create any real, effective solutions.
“I think it’s very important to have these hearings at the border, where the problem is,” Olivarez said. “I mean, it really shines light and exposes the reality of the situation at the border.”
He explained that it is now the second field hearing that doesn’t include both political parties, saying regardless of the political spectrum, both parties are needed in the discussion.
Olivarez said they want some solutions, especially since they are now two years into the current border situation.
NewsNation affiliate Border Report contributed to this report.