Chairman Green: “This is One of the Most Dangerous Times in the History of the United States”
November 15, 2023
Delivers opening statement in hearing on worldwide threats to the homeland
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Mark E. Green, MD (R-TN) delivered the following opening statement during a hearing to examine global threats to the U.S. homeland and our security interests abroad, featuring testimony from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray, and National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Director Christine Abizaid. Watch the full hearing here.
As prepared for delivery:
Twenty-two years have passed since September 11th. Since then, the nature of the threats we face has evolved, and the security challenges are becoming more dynamic each day.
I do not say this lightly; this is one of the most dangerous times in the history of the United States.
Some of the greatest threats include: an open and lawless Southwest border, ask any border Sheriff or for that matter the mayor of NYC; the rising threat of terrorism; rogue nation-state actors and criminal elements seeking to do us harm; and efforts by foreign adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party to target our critical infrastructure. Of course, we also have the wars in Israel and Ukraine, and rising Chinese aggression in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.
To overcome these significant challenges, we must take a clear-eyed and holistic look at these threats.
First, we are facing an unprecedented crisis at the Southwest border. In just three years, the Biden administration has systematically dismantled our nation’s border security and created the worst border crisis in American history. While my friends on the left defend these actions—though now maybe less so than at the start—it is clear that this crisis is not the result of budget cuts, changes in Border Patrol resources, or changes to the immigration laws passed by Congress. What changed was the cancelation of effective policies that had secured our borders—the Biden administration ended proven policies like Remain in Mexico, asylum cooperative agreements, and construction of new border wall system.
As a result, people tested the system, were released into the country, called home, and millions more came. A lot like a college town bar that doesn’t card. Before long, they have a line out the door. Worse, as acknowledged by AG Garland, the drug cartels have taken advantage of this policy shift, and executed a strategy pushing mass waves of people to tie up border patrol and then bypassed with thousands of pounds of fentanyl killing Americans at an unprecedented rate.
Worse, as acknowledged by AG Garland, the drug cartels have taken advantage of this policy shift, and executed a strategy pushing mass waves of people to tie up border patrol and then bypassed with thousands of pounds of fentanyl killing Americans at an unprecedented rate.
Under Secretary Mayorkas, we just saw a record-breaking year for illegal immigration. CBP reported 2.47 million alien encounters along the Southwest border in Fiscal Year 2023. Since taking office, Secretary Mayorkas has overseen more than 6.5 million Southwest border encounters, 7.8 million nationwide encounters, and more than 1.8 million known gotaways—all records.
To put this in perspective: The number of illegal immigrants who entered our country since President Biden took office is greater than the population of 33 of our states. I’ll repeat that: more than 33 out of our 50 states.
Furthermore, under Secretary Mayorkas, violent Mexican cartels are making record profits. In fact, the New York Times reported that cartels earned around $500 million a year in 2018 on human smuggling. Today, they earn an estimated $13 billion a year.
The failure of this administration’s border policies has created a humanitarian and national security crisis as transnational criminal organizations prey on vulnerable migrants and sneak across violent felons and individuals on the terrorist watchlist.
And yet, Secretary Mayorkas has continued to mislead Congress and the American people, claiming that this is what a secure border looks like.
Second, malicious activity by nation-state actors and terrorism poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland. Without question, the homeland is less safe under President Biden.
The catastrophic Afghanistan withdrawal two years ago signaled weakness and a lack of leadership to the world. Our nation’s adversaries have been emboldened to attack our allies and our friends and are undermining our security here at home.
Significant threats to our cities and local communities are only growing.
As each of you recently testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, foreign terrorist organizations, including those supported by Tehran, have gained a sense of momentum following Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack against Israel last month.
These terrorist organizations continue to call for attacks against the U.S. at home and abroad.
This includes Al-Qaeda, which as Director Wray has pointed out, has issued its most specific call to attack the U.S. in the last five years.
As our adversaries seek to further destabilize the Middle East, we must confront how these threats directly impact our own homeland security.
According to DHS, 294 aliens whose names appear on the terrorist watchlist were stopped trying to cross our Southwest border between ports of entry since FY2021. Compare that with the 11 individuals stopped in the four years between FY2017-2020. Think about that for a moment.
Its intuitive. Why would these individuals, who under the previous president only 11 attempted to cross and were caught, suddenly feel like they could try and succeed? Policy changes.
In the last two years, CBP encountered over 6,000 Special Interest Aliens from Afghanistan, 1,600 from Pakistan, 659 from Iran, and 123 from Iraq between ports of entry.
Additionally, DHS documents obtained by this Committee show that more than 20,000 Russians, nearly 230 Afghans, and more than 1,800 Uzbeks have been released into the country via the misguided CBP One mass-parole program, with minimal or no vetting.
And these are just the ones we know about. How many other individuals posing a national security threat have been among the 1.8 million known gotaways? No one knows, and that is terrifying.
Our Committee has been engaged with DHS, the FBI, and NCTC to ensure resources are appropriately allocated to counter the threats from terrorism. That said, more must be done.
We will not be deterred. We demand DHS’s full compliance without delay. Compliance I might add that is dictated by the constitution you took and oath to uphold.
We are still awaiting sufficient information on the Biden administration’s handling of the heightened national security risks posed by a massive number of aliens with terrorist ties illegally crossing the Southwest border.
Third, antisemitism is rising and threats against communities of faith in the United States are reaching historic levels. Antisemitic attacks have risen sharply in the U.S. since October 7th. Foreign terrorist organizations like ISIS have called on its extremist supporters to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe.
The Free World pledged “Never Again” nearly 80 years ago. Now is the time we stand firm and united against this evil.
We must not let these antisemitic attacks and the increasingly hateful rhetoric become a harbinger of something worse to come.
We must do all we can to protect houses of worship and vulnerable communities from such targeted violence.
Fourth, cyberattacks continue to undermine our homeland security. The cyber threats we face from malicious nation-states and cyber criminals are increasingly complex. This summer, the federal government experienced multiple incidents, including right before the Secretary of Commerce’s visit to China.
Our critical infrastructure is also under attack. This year’s Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community highlighted the threat that adversarial cyber actors pose to our critical infrastructure owners and operators.
DHS, CISA, and the FBI have a crucial role to play in supporting these owners and operators to defend against and respond to these threats.
Finally, we must address the challenge posed by the CCP. Against the backdrop of all these threats lie the specter of a regime that continues to challenge the U.S. economically, technologically, diplomatically, and militarily.
Through its relentless espionage, the CCP is stealing U.S. intellectual property, trade secrets, and other sensitive data of Americans and American companies.
Over the past year alone, the CCP has increased its espionage efforts against the homeland in a variety of ways. These include the CCP’s surveillance balloon collecting intelligence on sensitive sites, and Chinese nationals posing as tourists to access our military bases and other sensitive sites. Border Patrol has recorded more than 24,000 apprehensions of Chinese nationals at the Southwest border in FY2023, a one thousand one hundred percent increase from last year. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see there is intentionality here.
If recent reports are correct, the CCP also operates dozens of overseas police stations which aid their transnational repression effort by intimidating and threatening Chinese dissidents abroad.
DHS and the FBI must ensure that transnational repression tactics and schemes by foreign governments cannot continue on American soil. We stand ready to help achieve this goal.
The CCP has also made strides in infiltrating our nation’s education system. It should concern every American that billions of dollars from the CCP are flowing into our K-12 classrooms and institutions of higher education. This is a systemic effort by the CCP to expand its influence within America’s classrooms and promote its authoritarian, anti-American agenda.
So, what is the Homeland Security Committee doing about these threats?
For one, in May, we passed H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023—the most comprehensive border security legislation in decades.
We have addressed cyber threats head-on through a whole-of-nation approach. We have passed legislation encouraging responsible use of open source software in the federal government and building DHS’s cyber workforce.
I have convened a group of Committees across Congress to discuss and develop solutions to this problem that implicate multiple Committees’ jurisdictions.
Just last week, this Committee advanced Congressman Pfluger’s legislation to prohibit DHS funds from flowing to universities that host Confucius Institutes and Chinese Entities of Concern. Further, we passed Congressman Guest’s commonsense legislation to counter the CCP’s brazen espionage and theft of U.S. innovation by barring DHS from purchasing drones from the PRC or other foreign adversaries.
We have held multiple hearings to examine the evolving threat of terrorism more than two decades after September 11th and their implications on the homeland, including a recent hearing where we received confirmation of the immediate and significant threat the Iranian regime poses to U.S. homeland security.
This Committee has also demanded information on individuals from Uzbekistan and other countries who used a smuggler with ties to ISIS to enter the U.S. through our Southwest border. We’ve also demanded information on DHS’s screening and vetting of Afghan evacuees in the wake our catastrophic withdrawal. Most recently, we have requested documents and information from DHS and the FBI on terrorist threats at the Southwest border.
The Department and FBI’s constant delays and lack of responsiveness has become an unacceptable pattern. Make no mistake, we will continue to use every tool at our disposal to secure these answers—for the American people.
I look forward to a productive conversation about the current threats to our homeland and the actions being taken to prevent them. I thank our witnesses for being here and I look forward to your testimony.