Lawmakers Debate Utility of Border War in Combating Illegal Immigration Crisis

Lawmakers Debate Utility of Border War in Combating Illegal Immigration Crisis
Tijuana, Mexico, seen through the U.S. border wall near San Diego, Calif., on May 31, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Savannah Hulsey Pointer

House Republicans led a hearing to discuss the effect of President Joe Biden’s changes to border barrier policies and their impact on illegal immigration going forward.

Republican lawmakers pointed to the sharp increase in illegal immigration detentions and “gotaways” that have flooded the border since the barrier project was halted by Mr. Biden.

The joint subcommittee hearing by the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement, led by Chairman Clay Higgins (R-La.), and the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Accountability, led by Chairman Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), featured expert testimony from witnesses from current and former government officials, a representative from the Army Corps of Engineers, and several non-government figures whose lives have been impacted by the border crisis.

“Illegal border crossings have decreased by up to 87 percent from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2020,” Mr. Higgins said, referencing the former Trump administration’s program to strengthen barriers on the southern border.

“During the construction of the border barrier system we'll be discussing today, the Department of Homeland Security never reported more than 1 million yearly encounters of illegal aliens at the southwest border.

“In the two and a half years since President Biden was inaugurated, there have been more than 5 million illegal border crossings and over one and a half million gotaways ... If this trend continues, the Biden administration is expected to reach nearly two and a half million alien encounters at the southern border by the end of September of this year alone.

Mr. Higgins also asserted that a barrier system at the border allows Customs and Border Protection agents to “respond and to detect threats or breaches using surveillance technology in place along the barrier instead of relying on man patrol and other limited surveillance efforts.”

Democrat Response

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security and Enforcement Ranking Member Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) weighed in on the issue, saying that a border wall solution to illegal immigration was a “[President] Bill Clinton era project from 30 years ago.”

Mr. Correa went on to say that “the challenges today look very different than they did 30 years ago,” and that the question before the committees was, “Does a border wall fit into the challenges that we are seeing today?”

The lawmaker discussed changes that have taken place at the border throughout the Trump and Biden administrations, referencing the COVID-19 restrictions that came with Title 42, and the repeal of that measure and enactment of Title 8, which Mr. Correa asserted has worked well since it was reenacted.

According to the California lawmaker, a border wall is causing more problems than it is remedying: “The wall is not preventing migrants from coming to the United States, but rather the wall is directing migrants to cross in more remote and dangerous areas of the border.”

“We’ve also seen more injuries, traumatizing families and costing our hospitals millions of dollars.”

Mr. Correa cited data indicating that a large portion of drugs coming from Mexico and China are now coming through sea ports, indicating that a border wall won’t put a damper on drug trade.

“Cartels today are smuggling the overwhelming majority of drugs through our ports of entry using very creative ways to smuggle ... We heard last week on how cartels are now using drones.

“Some drones that cost $200, with a payload of a million dollars value of fentanyl, cross the border. How is the border wall going to stop a drone?”

Biden Admin Forced to Build Some Wall

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported on June 30 that they would be building 20 miles of the U.S.–Mexico border wall due to funding that was still allocated to the project.
“Until and unless Congress cancels these funds, the law requires DHS to use the funds consistent with their appropriated purpose,” the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement announcing the wall construction.

Previously, Mr. Biden’s administration urged Congress to take action to prevent the construction of additional wall segments, which is currently unlikely given that Republicans control the House.

According to the statement, approximately 20 miles of “steel bollard panels” will be installed along the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Border Patrol in 2019, as mandated by a 2019 border barrier appropriation under the Trump administration. It was stated that “a substantial portion of unobligated funds that had been diverted from the Department of Defense” had been returned to the Pentagon.

About $190 million remains in the 2019 spending bill, according to DHS, which first attempted to use the remaining funds for “other priority projects” such as “environmental, and other remediation measures, system attributes for existing barrier, and environmental mitigation projects.”

“In addition, DHS authorized CBP to move forward with the Yuma Andrade and El Centro Calexico Fence Replacement Projects to mitigate immediate life, safety, and operational risks to the local community, migrants, and Border Patrol agents in the area,” the statement said. “Both projects will replace dilapidated segments of legacy fencing that presently create safety and security concerns for USBP agents, migrants, and the surrounding community.”

The White House did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’s request for comment.

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