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Gimenez Delivers Opening Statement in Subcommittee Hearing on Securing America’s Maritime Border

March 23, 2023

Gimenez Delivers Opening Statement in Subcommittee Hearing on Securing America’s Maritime Border

WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation and Maritime Security Chairman Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing on securing our nation’s maritime border in the midst of the self-made crisis caused by the Biden administration’s reckless policies.

The full hearing is livestreamed here.

Watch Subcommittee Chair Gimenez’s full opening statement for a hearing entitled, “Securing America’s Maritime Border: Challenges and Solutions for U.S. National Security.”

I want to thank each of the witnesses here with us today, for your service, and for taking the time to testify.

The subject of today’s hearing—examining challenges at the Nation’s maritime borders—directly coincides with the work of our full Committee, which aims to hold the Biden administration accountable for its disastrous open border policies.

As the representative of the Florida Keys, I am intimately familiar with the migratory and illegal narcotics crisis on the open sea, and along our coasts.

For the last two years, the Biden administration’s policies have caused unlawful migration to surge month after month, creating an unprecedented situation, including in my community in South Florida.

This past January, Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park temporarily was forced to close down to the public due to almost 300 arrivals by sea. The U.S. Coast Guard removed the migrants from the park onboard a Coast Guard cutter and transferred them ashore to Key West.

This incident is one of many along the Nation’s maritime borders. Just last week off the coast of San Diego, the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched to search for two migrant smuggling boats that capsized, tragically killing eight migrants on board.

Five months ago, in November, two agents with U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations (AMO) were injured and a third agent—Michel Maceda, a seven-year veteran of AMO—was killed during a shootout with suspected drug smugglers during a patrol off the coast of Puerto Rico.

In my home state of Florida, state and local authorities are doing their very best to handle this crisis and the untenable situation on the ground.

And I want to recognize the efforts of Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, and our brave sheriff’s deputies, for their tireless work to assist federal authorities throughout this migrant crisis impacting the Florida Keys.

Since August 2022 alone, nearly 11,000 migrants have been repatriated after attempting to enter Florida by sea.

Over the past two years, I’ve continued to raise the alarm about the surge of illicit narcotics, particularly deadly synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, entering our Nation’s borders at record levels.

The drug crisis in our country is unsustainable and is a direct result of the failed policies this administration has pursued.  With that said, I would like to recognize the importance of the agencies each of our witnesses represent.

The U.S. Coast Guard plays a crucial role in keeping our country safe and our maritime borders secure. While much work remains to be done, it is evident that the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard have worked tirelessly to respond to the Nation’s migrant and illicit drug crisis.

CBP AMO is another important component of the drug and migrant interdiction missions in the maritime environment. AMO is involved in almost every aspect of the response to the migrant crisis, from apprehending and processing unlawful migrants, to conducting law enforcement operations and interdicting illicit drug smugglers.

The Florida National Guard has been instrumental in addressing the migratory surge in the Florida Keys. Governor Ron DeSantis recently issued an executive order that activated the Florida National Guard and mandated they provide resources and assist local authorities. Over the past couple of months, we have seen the Florida National Guard do just that.

Lastly, I am deeply appreciative of our GAO witness for joining us here today. The GAO is known as “the congressional watchdog” and it lives up to its name. The GAO supports Congress by ensuring accountability for federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and CBP AMO.