The top U.S. Customs and Border Patrol official told Congress on March 15 that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not have operational control of the U.S.–Mexico border, contradicting an earlier claim by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz made the comments to the House Homeland Security Committee during a hearing in McAllen, Texas, a border town whose southern tip lies along the Rio Grande River.
Since taking control of the House, Republicans have focused attention on the border, holding several hearings in border towns like McAllen. Last month, the House Judiciary Committee held a similar hearing in Yuma, Arizona, another town lying along the U.S.–Mexico border.
Under the immigration policies of President Joe Biden, the United States has buckled under an unprecedented influx of illegal aliens, drugs, enslaved people, and cartel activity along the southern border.
Republicans have blamed this situation on Biden’s decision to overturn President Donald Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which successfully decreased levels of illegal immigration by forcing would-be asylees to wait in Mexico until their court date. Courts would then determine whether an applicant met the conditions for receiving political asylum in the United States.
During the Republicans’ Yuma hearing, a top immigration official told the panel that 90 percent of applicants under the Remain in Mexico policy had their applications denied.
During the March 15 hearing, Ortiz was asked by Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) if the United States had operational control of the border.
“Does DHS have operational control of our entire border?” Green asked.
“No sir,” Ortiz replied.
According to U.S. law, “operational control of the border” means “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics and other contraband.”
Green cited this definition before turning to an earlier exchange between Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in which Republicans were told that DHS did have operational control of the border.
Green played a video of the exchange before asking Ortiz whether Mayorkas lied. Ortiz replied that operational control was not a good metric for measuring the United States’ “effectiveness along the border.”
“About ten years ago, we used operational control as a measuring stick of our effectiveness along the southwest border. My new strategy is geared towards mission advantage,” Ortiz replied ambiguously.
Green again pointed to the meaning of “operational control” as defined in U.S. law.
“You heard the secretary, he said we have operational control,” Green said. “That’s the definition.”
Finally, Ortiz conceded that the United States does not have operational control if operational control is defined as the total enforcement of existing U.S. customs and immigration laws.
“Based upon the definition you have sir, up there, no,” Ortiz said.
“We don’t have operational control?” Green pushed on.
“No sir,” Ortiz acknowledged.
‘A Crisis Situation’
Later, Ortiz also told the panel that “the migration flow represents challenges and in some areas, a crisis situation.”
The statement was surprising, as Biden’s administration has erred away from using the word “crisis” to describe the state of affairs along the U.S.–Mexico border.
In a statement to the Epoch Times, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.)—a prime proponent of impeaching Mayorkas, who oversees the enforcement of U.S. immigration and customs laws—again called for Mayorkas’ impeachment when questioned about his reaction to Ortiz’s comments.
“Secretary Mayorkas continues to lie to the American public and his own employees,” Biggs said. “He does not have operational control of the border—anyone who spends one single day at the southern border can attest to that.”
“I have filed impeachment articles against him twice and he deserves to be impeached,” Biggs added, referring to two separate articles of impeachment he submitted against Mayorkas during the current and last Congress.
“Every day he remains in public office, America becomes less safe,” Biggs warned.