House Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited the southern border Thursday, his fourth trip in two years.
“I promise you this: The new majority in Congress, we’re going to fight to fix this problem,” McCarthy said of the border crisis during a press conference on Arizona’s border with Mexico.
Freshman House Republicans Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, Jen Kiggans of Virginia, and Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin joined McCarthy on the trip through the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, which stretches across most of Arizona.
Customs and Border Protection briefed the five lawmakers on the border crisis and took them on an aerial tour of the border.
The flood of fentanyl coming across the border was one of the central issues lawmakers addressed while delivering remarks after their tour of the border.
“This fentanyl crisis is directly impacting, and literally killing, that American dream,” Ciscomani said.
Chavez-DeRemer says her state of Oregon, geographically far from the southern border, is suffering from the fentanyl crisis.
“We had our largest drug bust in Oregon’s history… this past year,” Chavez-DeRemer said, adding that the drugs seized could “have killed 4.5 million people.”
“We all ran on border security,” Chavez-DeRemer said of herself and her fellow GOP colleagues, referring to the midterm elections, adding “it is our job” to address the border crisis.
The delegation’s trip to the border comes just a couple weeks after Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., filed new articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying in a press release that Mayorkas “is the chief architect of the migration and drug invasion at our southern border,” a sentiment which some lawmakers echoed at the border Thursday.
“It’s the policies of the Biden administration that have led to this crisis,” Van Orden said during the press conference at the border Thursday.
In fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30, Customs and Border Protection reported a record 2.3 million land encounters with migrants at the southern border. With over 870,000 total encounters between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31 (the first four months of fiscal year 2023), CBP encounters with illegal aliens are on track to overtake the previous year’s numbers.
Customs and Border Protection also reports that it seized just over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl in fiscal year 2022 and more than 12,000 pounds between October and the end of January.
“I’m calling on the Biden administration today, Secretary Mayorkas, do your damn job,” Van Orden said.
McCarthy and his fellow GOP members also met with ranchers and local leaders, including John Ladd, a beef cattle rancher from Arizona who has found the bodies of dead migrants on his land.
“We’ve been dealing with this far too long,” Ladd said, adding, “I’m very hopeful that this is the beginning of a new change in what we’re seeing out of Washington.”
Learn about Ladd’s life on the border:
White House spokesperson Ian Sams was critical of the border delegation, claiming it was “partisan publicity stunts,” in a statement Wednesday.
“Solutions are what President Biden is focused on, and his plan is working,” Sams said. “House Republicans would be wise to join him to work together to strengthen our immigration system and fund border security.”
But Republicans are not the only ones visiting the border this week. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries plans to visit the southern border in Laredo, Texas Friday. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, will accompany Jeffries for briefings with law enforcement and an aerial tour of the border.
“It’s important that members visit the border and try to get an objective understanding of the border,” Cuellar told Fox News Thursday.
Both McCarthy’s and Jeffries’ visits to the southern border comes after the House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings at the border in Midland, Texas, Wednesday, making good on McCarthy’s promise to hold a congressional hearing at the border “to force Biden & the Dems to pay attention to the crisis they created.”
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