On Wednesday, the head of the United States Border Patrol told lawmakers that the agency lacks operational control of the U.S. border with Mexico, describing migration levels as a “crisis.”
According to reports, U.S. Border Chief Raul Ortiz spoke at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in Texas and was asked by Tennessee Republican Representative Mark Green about Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ previous statements last year that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operational control of the U.S.-Southern border with Mexico.
In his opening statement, Ortiz praised the Border Patrol agency working to handle the ongoing migrant influx crisis, saying that it filled him with “tremendous pride” and was his “greatest” honor to work with them. Ortiz described the challenges facing agents and used the word “crisis” when talking about the enormous amounts of illegal migrants that the Southern border has faced in recent years.
“The migration flow represents challenges and in some areas, a crisis situation,” he said.
“Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, testifying under oath, conceded the obvious that we do not have operational control of our border, as it is statutorily defined,” said Ira Mehlman, Media Director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
“In doing so, he directly contradicted Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ claim that we do. Chief Ortiz also asserted that operational control is no longer even the benchmark employed by the current administration and that his strategy is now geared toward an undefined goal of ‘mission advantage.’ Based on the results, it is the criminal cartels that control smuggling operations who are the ones with a clear mission advantage,” Mehlman told The Foreign Desk.
Asked by Rep. Green if the DHS has operational control of the entire border, Ortiz responded with “No sir.”
The U.S. Border Chief then showed a definition of operational control in the U.S. legal code, saying that it is the “prevention of all unlawful entries into the U.S., including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.”
The Congressman then played a video of DHS Secretary Mayorkas telling Texas Rep. Chip Roy in 2022 that the DHS does have operational control of the border and asked the Border Chief if the Biden administration official was lying to lawmakers and the American public.
“About 10 years ago, we used operational control as a measuring stick of our effectiveness along the southwest border. My new strategy is geared towards mission advantage,” Ortiz said.” “Based upon the definition you have sir, up there, no.”
When asked by Green if the DHS had operational control, Ortiz stated the U.S. government does not.
Asked by Florida Republican lawmaker Carlos A. Gimenez what the percentage number of illegal migrants getting away from border patrol officials that they did not know about, Ortiz said that the number is 10-20 percent than current reports. Ortiz also testified that there have already been approximately 385,000 known getaways at the U.S. Southern border since the fiscal year 2023 began last fall. According to reports, that is in addition to the 600,000 in the fiscal year 2022 and 390,000 in 2021.
According to reports, Republican lawmakers explained that the hearing on Wednesday was to examine the direct link between the President and Secretary Mayorkas’ “reckless border policies and the unprecedented crisis at our Southwest border.” Democrat lawmakers refused to attend the hearing, while the Biden White House stated that Republicans were playing “partisan games.”
“The ‘crisis’; at the border that Chief Ortiz admitted exists is a direct result of policies implemented by the Biden administration,” Mehlman told The Foreign Desk.
“They did not ‘inherit a dismantled immigration system,’ they deliberately took a wrecking ball to just about every effective enforcement mechanism that was in place when the president was sworn in. The administration’s primary focus remains on processing people who have no valid claim to enter the U.S. as quickly as possible and releasing them into the country. Operational control, as Chief Ortiz suggested, is no longer even a goal for this administration,” he explained.
Regarding the changes in policy by the Biden administration to release migrants into the homeland instead of detaining and releasing them was driving the crisis, Ortiz explained that “you have the capacity, and you have to have consequences.” He warned that as acting chief in 2014 during the Obama administration, there was a “policy crisis.”