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Chairman Green Delivers Opening Remarks in Committee Markup for Border Reinforcement Act of 2023

April 26, 2023

Chairman Green Delivers Opening Remarks in Committee Markup for Border Reinforcement Act of 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) delivered the following opening remarks in a markup to consider H.R. 2794, the Border Reinforcement Act of 2023. Bill text can be viewed here.

The markup is livestreamed on the Committee’s YouTube. 

Watch Chairman Green’s full opening statement in a House Homeland Security Committee markup for the Border Reinforcement Act of 2023.

Today’s markup includes the Committee’s first border security bill in over two years. President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ dereliction of duty have made passing this legislation critical.

The intentional opening of our border cannot continue. The previous administration left tools in place for the current administration to continue securing our border. Unfortunately, President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have systematically dismantled these policies and systems.

In fact, the Biden administration has taken what was the most secure border in our lifetime and turned it into a place of chaos and devastation and a place where the cartels are now in control. When coupled with the work of our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, this bill will force the administration to enforce the law, secure the border, and reduce illegal immigration once again.

The Committee has spent months meticulously crafting a solution to address the self-inflicted, intentional crisis at our borders. With the input of my Republican colleagues on the Committee and across the Conference, as well as everyday Americans from across our great country, Border Patrol agents, victims of illegal alien crime and the drug crisis, business owners, state and local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers, we have taken the time and put in the effort to fully understand the record-breaking humanitarian border crisis that President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas intentionally created.

The numbers are overwhelming: More than 5 million encounters at the Southwest border since President Biden took office, and as I’ve said before, twice the previous two administrations–combined. Over 1.4 million known ‘gotaways’ since February 2021, 193 aliens on the terrorist watchlist encountered along the Southwest border between FY 2021 to FY 2023 year to date, over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl seized in FY 2023—enough to kill the entire U.S. population nine and a half times over, and that’s just what we’ve captured. 61,390 criminal aliens arrested by CBP attempting to cross the U.S. borders since the beginning of FY2021.

The refusal of the Biden administration to admit its policies have failed to secure our borders is why all of my Republican colleagues on the Committee and I introduced the Border Reinforcement Act of 2023. Through multiple visits to the border, as well as hearings, briefings, and conversations throughout the country, Americans across the political spectrum made one thing clear: the crux of the border crisis is concentrated between ports of entry.

The Biden-Mayorkas border crisis has turned every state in our Union into a border state. From a record number of fentanyl deaths to rising crime, it is the cities and communities across America that are bearing the brunt of the Biden administration’s open borders and anti-security policies. And these policies are enriching and emboldening drug cartels who increasingly threaten the safety and security of Americans. It cannot continue.

This administration has both intentionally created the conditions and refused to acknowledge the severity of the crisis. America has had enough.

The Border Reinforcement Act seeks to address the immediate impact of the crisis by focusing on mitigating and stopping the surge of illegal aliens and drugs flowing across U.S. borders between ports of entry. This bill is just the start. With the work of our colleagues in the Judiciary Committee and others, this effort will address the problem in its entirety. These bills must move together. I want to highlight a few key pieces of the bill:

First, the bill addresses border wall construction. Since the U.S. Border Patrol began building the border wall system over 30 years ago, we have heard from agents on the ground that effective physical infrastructure is needed to meet the challenges of a dynamic border threat environment. The border barrier system has proven to be a critical component in deterring and discouraging illegal border crossers.

It wasn’t that long ago that many Democrats, including some of our colleagues in the House, as well as President Biden, Former President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and Leader Chuck Schumer, actually voted to fund hundreds of miles of border fencing.

This bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to use previously appropriated but unexpired funding to immediately resume construction of the border wall. This means that at least 900 miles of border wall will be built. The American people have already paid for the materials—but under this President, we’re paying interest for them to lie unused and deteriorate in the desert.

U.S. Border Patrol would also benefit from integrating new, advanced, and improved technologies into its operations. This bill makes targeted investments in border technology to supplement the border wall system and our frontline personnel.

The bill also requires the Commissioner of CBP to develop a technology investment plan to identify capability gaps and security risks at and between ports of entry along the borders of the United States.

Border Patrol agents are leaving at a faster rate than the CBP Commissioner can hire them. Under the Biden administration, Border Patrol agents are stretched thin both physically and mentally. They are overwhelmed and overworked.

CBP agents are leaving before reaching their retirement eligibility because of poor working conditions and low moral due to a horrendous lack of support from the Biden administration.

During the Committee’s field hearing on March 15, Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified that he needs approximately 22,000 agents to achieve Border Patrol’s mission. The Border Reinforcement Act aims to do exactly that by mandating that CBP expand its force by an additional 3,000 agents to reach a total of 22,000.

The bill also aims to return agents back to their law enforcement duties in the field by ensuring they are not responsible for serving as processing coordinators—something that the Biden administration is forcing them to do, which has led to major retention challenges for Border Patrol. To address these challenges, the bill includes a retention bonus for frontline Border Patrol agents serving at the Southwest, Northern, and maritime border sectors. We strongly support and appreciate the work agents do every day to keep our homeland secure.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made very blatant attempts to bury the release of its monthly encounter numbers or withhold certain information from the public. This is why our bill requires DHS to disclose to Congress and make public all monthly data, including known gotaways, before the 7th day of each month. Congress will not tolerate this administration’s lack of transparency to the American people.

To further enhance border security measures, this bill increases support for Operation Stonegarden, a grant program that provides funds to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies that are also dealing with the effects of this crisis.

Last year, Republicans made a Commitment to America to secure our borders, protect our nation, and safeguard our communities. I made that same commitment during last week’s hearing with Secretary Mayorkas.

I am pleased to say that today, Republicans are delivering on that promise.

The Biden and Mayorkas border crisis is a national security threat that must be addressed immediately. I encourage my colleagues to join me in voting for this important legislation.