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Texas Angel Mom, Rancher, Security Expert Testify on Human Cost of Border Crisis

July 28, 2023

Committee launches phase three of investigation into Secretary Mayorkas’ failure to secure our border

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement, led by Chairman Clay Higgins (R-LA), and the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, led by Chairman August Pfluger (R-TX), held a joint hearing to examine the tragic human cost of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and President Biden’s historic humanitarian border crisis. In the hearing, testimony was provided by Elisa Tambunga, who tragically lost her seven-year-old daughter and mother in a car crash earlier this year with a cartel-affiliated human smuggler in South Texas. Additional witnesses were JR Ramirez, a fifth-generation cattle rancher in South Texas, and Todd Bensman, a former Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) intelligence analyst and national security expert.
In phase three of the oversight investigation into Secretary Mayorkas, Committee Members received confirmation that, because of President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ open-border policies, Mexican cartels are able to take advantage of our porous Southwest border to spread death and destruction across the country, including in many communities that lack the resources to address the crisis. This destruction includes recruiting aliens to run dangerous human smuggling operations that take the lives of Americans and migrants alike and helping criminals cross our border illegally. 


WATCH: Rep. Pfluger on Those Discounting Cartel Crime in America: “I’m Offended When I Hear That” 

In his opening line of questioning, Chairman Pfluger questioned witnesses on how the historic crisis at our Southwest border affects Americans on the frontlines and the dangers of cartel human smuggling operations: 
“You’ve had five generations of proud ranching history in your family on the ranch that you’re on now. I just kind of want to put it in perspective for people from your experience. Have you seen a situation, in those five generations, that is like this—with the chaos, with the damages, the high-speed chases. Have you seen anything like this past two-and-a-half year period previously.”
Mr. Ramirez answered:
“Talking to my grandfather, who was raised on the ranch, and at least going back that far, he’s never talked about a time where it was like it is now. People used to come across in smaller numbers, from what he recalls, and looking for work and we’re willing to work and it wasn’t the situation that it is now. The volume of people that are—and by the way, everything I talked about, this is 40 miles away from the border. And I have friends 100 miles away from the border that are going through the same situation. These aren’t people that are walking or swimming across the river, throwing up their hands and letting themselves get documented or whatever happens there. These are people that are trying to circumvent that process.”
Chairman Pfluger continued:
“What’s causing it, from your experience. Talking to law enforcement, border patrol—what is causing this?”
Mr. Ramirez answered:
“There’s certainly a reason to go through the trouble of hiring a coyote to take them through. That’s an expensive process, from what I understand. There’s got to be a reason why they do not want to be documented. What that reason is, I don’t know, but they are coming through in droves to our country.”
Chairman Pfluger continued, asking Ms. Tambunga:
“In previous conversations you discussed how the driver of the vehicle was recruited by the cartels. There is a narrative that is in this committee and sometimes espoused by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that the cartels are not at all linked to the issue of illegal immigration. I want to get your take on that because I’m offended when I hear that.”
Ms. Tambunga answered:
“As far as the information that we know now, and this is coming from Texas DPS, the driver, murderer, of the vehicle, he was recruited on TikTok by the cartel.”
Chairman Pfluger concluded:
“When you hear that, and I hope my colleagues are listening to that, that we can talk economics, we can talk immigration […]. But, we’re talking about the security of our communities. This person was recruited, this person went on a high-speed chase over 100 miles an hour and tragically ended the lives of two people and changed the lives of this family forever. And that is directly linked to the massive amounts of people that are coming across illegally, not following law and order.”


WATCH: Rep. Higgins: “What We Face on Our Southern Border is a Disintegration of Law and Order”

In his opening line of questioning, Chairman Higgins detailed the crisis created by the over 1.5 million known gotaways at the Southwest border and the millions more aliens released into the interior while Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has declined under this administration:

“America is a land of law and order or else we’re not. And this Congress is a body made up of 435 elected representatives of citizens of the United States of America. This is the legislative body of our government. We have a responsibility to serve and protect the citizens of America first. […] What we face on our southern border is a disintegration of law and order. Now, there’s been argument that perhaps we can make the absence of law and order more orderly and conduct our business of allowing the violation of our sovereign laws in a more effective manner. But I would argue that I choose not to be a part of a better managed decline of our nation.”
“Mr. Bensman, your background gives you tremendous experience covering national security issues. Extensively specifically regarding immigration. How would you count the number of illegal aliens that are currently in our country, both from prior administrations and for decades of presence here in our country. What would you put that number at?”
Mr. Bensman answered:
“The Center for Immigration Studies, before this mass migration crisis, we agreed with the 12 million figure. We can no longer say it’s 12 million now. We have to say it’s 16 million. We can’t just talk about the presence of illegals inside the United States as 12 million anymore.”
Chairman Higgins continued:
“So, as we move forward as a Congress to discuss immigration law and border security enforcement, would we not, based upon your experiences—is it not the responsibility of Congress to get a grasp on the number of aliens actually present in our country so we can stop guessing?”
Mr. Bensman answered:
“At some point, the government will have to resume interior enforcement operations. Interior enforcement operations have been suspended, by-and-large, for two and a half years. At some point somebody will decide well there are judge’s orders, removal orders that have to be enforced again, and we’ll have to be able to.”


WATCH: Rep. Guest Details Human Cost of Biden’s Border Crisis 

Vice Chairman Michael Guest (R-MS) highlighted the danger posed by the historic influx of illegal aliens into the country, including those with ties to cartels and gangs, under this administration:

“You opined that only Texas tracks much of the crime by non U.S. citizens, and then you cite roughly a decade of statistics from the Texas Department of Public Safety. […] Between June 1, 2011 and July 31, 2022, there were 259,000 illegal aliens charged with more than 433,000 criminal offenses. And those were just in the state of Texas. Of those offenses that were 800 charged with homicide. 822 charged with kidnapping. 5,470 charged with sexual assault. 6,485 charged with other sexual offenses. And 4,945 charged with weapon offenses. […] In the state of Texas, on April the 29th, there was a five-time deported Mexican national who murdered five individuals. Then in the next paragraph, you talk about that in April 2023 that there were two former middle school students who were found dead, their car riddled with bullets. We know that sitting to your left, Ms. Tambunga, just testified in her opening statement about her tragic loss. […] I also pulled just a couple of headlines in preparation for the hearing today from cases that have occurred this year. January 23: teenager arrested in rape and murder of autistic Maryland woman was an illegal immigrant, and a known MS-13 member. March 7, 2023: undocumented immigrant indicted on 11 counts of capital murder and abuse of a corpse. That occurred in Montgomery, Alabama. June 2, 2023. Five undocumented immigrants with ties to MS-13 charged with murder of Frederick teen. And then the last one, most recently, July 21 of this year: Mexican immigrant accused of grisly serial murders of three women in Dallas, Texas. […] I want to give you the opportunity to explain to this committee your findings as it relates to [illegal] immigration and the effect that it has on crime.”
Mr. Bensman answered:
“There is a comparative analysis that goes on, comparative research, where organizations try to compare illegal immigrant crime with crime rates committed by American citizens. That is a completely faulty analysis. You cannot compare those two, mainly because 100% of all crimes committed by illegal immigrants are avoidable and unnecessary, because they should have been deported. Like the man who slaughtered the Hondurans next door.”


WATCH: Rep. Greene Questions Angel Mom on Tragic Loss Under Biden Admin’s Failed Border Policies

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) received confirmation from Ms. Tambunga that she believes her family’s tragedy may have been avoided had our Southwest border remained secure:
“Do you believe that your mother and your daughter would be alive today if we had secure borders?”
Ms. Tambunga answered:

“I do believe that. Let me note that this could happen to anyone, and this literally happened when they were two minutes away from home. One stoplight away from my house. […] The fact is that my daughter and my mother are six feet under. The fact is that when I want to sing my daughter her special bedtime song, I have to go to the cemetery. The fact is that a few years ago, two doors down from my dad’s house, two Honduran immigrants shot, executed an Ozona citizen in his own home. That’s a fact. That’s a fact I urge you to look into as well, because this isn’t just one incident. This is multiple incidences over a long period of time now. Another fact is that only one trooper was able to get to us. One trooper working a whole stretch of I-10. Policemen from Eastland were supposed to be helping. Eastland is hours away.”


WATCH: Rep. Luttrell Highlights the Cost Paid by Rural Communities in Border States

Rep. Morgan Luttrell (R-TX) highlighted the cost paid by communities across the country who are ill-equipped to handle a historic migrant influx:
“You said earlier in your statement that you and your family and for your for your lives? You’ve got to look over your shoulder?”
Mr. Ramirez answered:
“We fear for the dangerous situation that we’re in because there are many, many people present on the ranch at any given time, and we don’t know if they’re friendly or not.”
Rep. Luttrell continued, asking Mr. Bensman:
“The statistics that you threw out in your statement. That’s my district. […] And in the past two years, I just got done talking with my Sheriff in Santa Jacinto County, in the past two years, there has been two shootings. Two mass shootings with the AR platforms that are in discussion, both of which were with illegal immigrants. That’s it. […] Can you elaborate, please, on what you saw in Liberty County as far as the school districts go?”
Mr. Bensman answered:
“It’s overcrowded. It’s struggling with an unanticipated onslaught of people moving in, foreign nationals who don’t speak the language. They tell me many of them are not legally present. The community there has been described as the largest community of illegal immigrants in the United States.”
Rep. Luttrell concluded:

“75,000 right in my district. I feel it. I feel the pressure. 10,000 children make up a school district. We went from 3,000 to 20,000. San Jacinto, Polk, Liberty counties are some of the poorest, not only in the state, but in the country. It is unsustainable. We know that this is a problem, but the administration is doing nothing to course correct this issue.”