A delegation of Republican lawmakers on the House Homeland Security Committee visited the southern border in El Paso, Texas this week, getting a first-hand look at the ongoing crisis at the southern border as part of an effort to inform legislation to deal with the crisis.
The committee held a “border bootcamp” ahead of a hearing in Washington D.C. next week and a hearing at the border next month. Republicans have stressed the need to see the communities affected by the crisis in-person and for lawmakers to know the ins and outs of the matter to help create effective legislation.
Rep. Nick LaLota, R-NY., told Fox News Digital on Saturday that the trip was “very informative.”
“I had been privy to a lot of the statistics and the figures of how the Biden administration has failed us at the border. But being able to see it firsthand and see the hard work of our Border Patrol agents has inspired me a lot now,” he said in an interview. “And as a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, I have a good perspective now on what legislation needs to take place in order to help secure our border.”
Lawmakers witnessed a drug bust while touring a port of entry, toured parts the incomplete border wall, and also took an aerial tour of the border via a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) chopper.
On that flight, they witnessed illegal immigrants who were waiting until the cover of darkness to cross, but the group then ran back south from the border after they saw the helicopter. House Homeland Security chairman Rep. Mark Green said the images his lawmakers captured dispute the narrative from the Biden administration that the border is secure.
“This is what happens at the border EVERY DAY,” Green tweeted. “Our border is NOT secure.”
The delegation’s trip comes days after Republicans on the Judiciary Committee visited the southern border to hold a hearing in-person in Yuma, Arizona. The Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on March 15 in McAllen, Texas.
Numbers at the border rocketed up shortly after the Biden administration took office and remained high since then. There were over 1.7 million encounters of migrants at the border in FY 21 and more than 2.3 million in FY 22. So far in FY 2023, which began in October, there have been more than a million encounters.
The visits to the border from Republicans — as well as some Democrats — come amid a dispute between the Biden administration and congressional Republicans as to who is to blame for the crisis. The Biden administration has said it is dealing with a hemisphere-wide challenge and is making progress with recently-announced border measures that have led to a drop in numbers at the border over the last month.
The administration has called for Congress to approve more funding for the border and pass a sweeping immigration reform measure that includes a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. It also recently announced a new asylum rule to make some migrants who have crossed illegally ineligible for asylum.
“America’s border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts. If it won’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border. And a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farmworkers, and essential workers,” Biden said in his State of the Union address to Congress.
Republicans have rejected the call for a pathway to citizenship and have continued to place the blame on the Biden administration for rolling back Trump-era policies, narrowing interior enforcement and what they see as a refusal to enforce U.S. immigration law. Lawmakers in the House have promised to hold the administration accountable and have even mulled impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
LaLota told Fox that he met with Border Patrol agents and saw how low their morale was after dealing with a two-year crisis.
“Their morale is low,” he said. “As a group they’re not getting the support they deserve from the Biden administration and quite honestly that needs to change and needs to change right away.“
He said that while Republicans will likely introduce additional legislation in the coming weeks, it also needs the Biden administration to step up.
“The committee is going to present a comprehensive bill that does address staffing, that does address technology, that does from a resource perspective do everything that needs to be done at the border,” he said. “But what we can’t do is force Biden to be a leader on this issue. He and Secretary Mayorkas need to find that leadership in and of themselves. That’s the key missing piece here and only he can provide that.”