By: Bethany Blankley
U.S. Border Patrol chiefs will testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Tuesday after they were first blocked by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from doing so.
Last month, Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer, R-Kentucky, sent a letter to Mayorkas stating the committee would be investigating the “Biden Administration’s creation of and failure to resolve the worst border crisis in American history. … The American people deserve answers about [DHS’] role in undermining Customs and Border Protection agents’ efforts to secure the southern border.”
Four Border Patrol agents overseeing southern border sectors were called to testify: Chiefs Jason Owens, Gregory Bovino, Gloria Chavez, and Acting Chief Patricia McGurk-Daniel. Initially, two were cleared to testify by Mayorkas and two weren’t.
Comer then threatened to use the “compulsory process” to require them to testify. By Jan. 31, Mayorkas agreed to all four testifying and Comer sent another letter to him saying, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) initially sought to prevent Congress from hearing invaluable testimony from Chief Patrol Agents, believing that DHS’s internal protocols superseded Congressional oversight prerogatives. I am pleased that the DHS is no longer taking such a position, and will make available as witnesses” all four agents.
Comer last week told reporters at the National Press Club that the committee requested they testify about “the worst offenses with respect to illegal border crossings are occurring, just to come before the committee. … We need to hear from people on the front lines” to ask their advice and how Congress can help them do their jobs.
Comer’s initial Jan. 19 letter to Mayorkas requested documents and copies of internal communications from DHS including data on border crossers released by DHS into the U.S. and DHS’ plan to terminate the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), otherwise known as “Remain in Mexico,” over which Texas sued. A federal court halted the administration’s plan to terminate it although Texas maintains the administration isn’t following the court order.
The letter also requires Mayorkas to provide information about “the effect of historic numbers of illegal border crossings on retention rates, staffing, recruitment and morale among” Border Patrol agents. The National Border Patrol Council, the union representing them, has argued that under this administration more agents are retiring and recruitment and morale is at an all-time historic low.
Comer also requested all documents and information about an ICE memorandum Mayorkas issued in September 2021, which drastically altered enforcement policies. Texas and Louisiana sued to stop it, supported by 19 states that filed a brief with the Supreme Court.
“President [Joe] Biden’s radical open borders agenda has ignited the worst border crisis in American history,” Comer said in a statement last month when he announced the hearing. “The Biden Administration’s deliberate actions are fueling human smuggling, stimulating drug cartel operations, enabling deadly drugs such as fentanyl to flow into American communities, and encouraging illegal immigrants to flout U.S. immigration laws. … Republicans will hold the Biden Administration accountable for this ongoing humanitarian, national security, and public health crisis that has turned every town into a border town.”
In early January, Biden said on his first day in office he sent to Congress a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would extend amnesty to a wide range of people illegally in the U.S. He also announced DHS’ new mobile app that allows foreign nationals to file asylum claims remotely from anywhere in the world as well as expanding the parole process and creating a new visa process. Multiple states also sued over the parole and visas policies, which they argue are illegal.
The hearing comes after Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified in a case brought by Florida that Biden policies led to increased illegal crossings and one of his emails revealed the administration’s plan to release people en masse into the U.S. once Title 42 was lifted.
Since Biden’s been in office, over 5 million people from over 150 countries have illegally entered the U.S. while Mayorkas has consistently maintained the southern border is closed. A record 3.3 million people were apprehended or reported evading capture by law enforcement in fiscal 2022, according to Border Patrol data obtained by The Center Square, including nearly 1.8 million in Texas alone.
Several House Republicans have called for Mayorkas’ impeachment; two Republicans from Texas and Arizona each filed separate articles of impeachment. Mayorkas says he isn’t resigning and has blamed the previous administration for the problems he says he’s inherited.
The NBPC disagrees, tweeting on Monday: “Two years ago we ceased to have any semblance of a functioning border. It’s just an out-of-control free-for-all … a disaster zone of massive human misery, death and lawlessness. How much longer can this country continue to absorb millions of illegal aliens?
“Everyday thousands more illegal aliens enter our country by crashing our border between ports of entry. Has Biden thought about how many millions he’s going to shuttle in? Is he even aware enough to realize that many of these people can’t be ID’d and no way to check records?”