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Higgins Opening Statement at DOD Border Deployment Hearing

June 20, 2019

 Higgins Opening Statement at DOD Border Deployment Hearing

WASHINGTON –Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Ranking Member Clay Higgins (R-La.), today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled “Examining the Department of Defense’s Deployment to the U.S.-Mexico Border”.

The situation at the southwest border is beyond a crisis.

Even the liberal New York Times Editorial Board, the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are calling on House Democrats to act.

Unfortunately, our majority has denied the House multiple opportunities to fund the needed supplemental humanitarian assistance. 17 times. 17 times House Democrats have rejected immediate humanitarian border aid.

Increasing numbers of migrants are bringing children on the dangerous journey to our border, more than ever before, with the most significant inflection point being the weakening of our immigration laws by the Flores settlement extension to families.

There are more than 17,000 migrants in Customs and Border Protection custody along our southwest border in facilities designed to hold 4,000.

My colleagues are quick to point out that people have died. But the majority has repeatedly rejected our effort to provide immediate humanitarian support.

CBP has been forced to release more than 77,000 people who entered our country illegally on a Notice to Appear, fueling cartel propaganda that if you step foot on U.S. soil, you can stay.

We are seeing an increase in apprehensions of migrants originating outside the Western Hemisphere, including Africa, underscoring that this crisis has a global security scope.

More than 40 percent of law enforcement officers tasked with securing the border are tied up doing administrative and processing tasks. They have been pulled away from their primary security mission.

Further, six Border Patrol interior checkpoints, which catch a significant percent of hard narcotics, have been closed to redirect agents to process migrants.

Hundreds of Department of Homeland Security employees are now at the border to assist with processing, which diminishes the readiness of other components to carry out their missions.

Worsening this crisis, Democrats in Congress have zeroed out funding for additional Border Patrol Agents, refusing to provide back-up for the men and women on the front lines.

This hearing is well-timed.

Today we have the opportunity to hear more information about the national security aspect of this crisis at the border.

There have been documented media reports that terrorist groups are calling on followers to blend in with migrants to gain entry into the United States.

We know from DHS intel sources that cartels are openly chartering buses to drop hundreds of people at a time in remote areas of the border. Cartels run large drug loads through while agents are occupied by the migrant group.

Criminal organizations are charging 7,000 dollars per person they smuggle to the border. More than 144,000 migrants were encountered by CBP at the border in May – that’s more than $1 billion last month alone potentially flowing to cartels.

I am encouraged by the DOD presence at the border to bolster CBP efforts and help return agents to the line.

Such a deployment is not a new concept. CBP and the National Guard have had a longstanding working relationship on counter-drug task forces as well as past operational deployments to the border under the Obama Administration and the George W. Bush Administration.

National Guard personnel are assisting with logistical and administrative support, operating sensor and imaging detection systems, providing mobile communications, augmenting border-related intelligence efforts, and other functions.

Separately, in response to the nearly 8,000-person caravan approaching the border in November, President Trump sent troops from the Army Corp of Engineers, military police, command and control teams in aviation, engineering, and medical, and pilots to fly helicopters to drop Border Patrol Agents in areas where border breaches have occurred.

The Army Corp is efficiently constructing enhanced physical barriers in places along the border where it is needed. DOD personnel are also manning CBP sensors and surveillance equipment to alert the field agents of illicit activity.

I want to thank the witnesses before us for being here to speak to the situation on the ground and the current threat environment, the resource constraints you are operating under, and the long-term strategy for the mission. Your service is to be noted.  You are deeply appreciated.