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Diagnosing border chaos


WORLD Radio - Diagnosing border chaos

The US Border Patrol Chief’s assessment conflicts with what top officials have been saying for a year

U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz listens during a news conference in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, on new border enforcement measures to limit unlawful migration, expand pathways for legal immigration, and increase border security. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Well up next, continuing chaos at the border.

Last week, a group of a thousand migrants rushed the El Paso entry point on the US-Mexico border. Three days later, Republican members of Congress held a field hearing in the city of McAllen, Texas, to investigate the border rush.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Now, for years, reporters have been asking members of the Biden Administration one simple question: is the border secure? Here are some of the answers they’ve gotten…

From Kamala Harris back in September:

KAMALA HARRIS: We have a secure border in that, that is a priority for any nation including ours and our administration.

From White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean Pierre, when asked about Harris’s comments:

KARINE JEAN PIERRE: Look as far as the border, we're taking unprecedented action, we had to fix something that was broken, especially by the last administration, we've secured record levels of funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

And from Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security. Congress brought him in for a hearing following a record-setting number of border crossings in March 2022. Here he is in a heated exchange with Congressman Chip Roy:

ROY: Will you testify under oath right now? Do we have operational control? Yes or no.

MAYORKAS: Yes, we do.

ROY: and we have operational control of the borders.

MAYORKAS: Yes, we do.

BROWN: But at the field hearing last Wednesday, lawmakers got a different answer when they played Mayorkas’s testimony and asked US Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz about the situation. Here’s Congressman Mark Green, followed by Ortiz.

GREEN: You heard the secretary, he said we have operational control. That's the definition. (points at a display behind him)

ORTIZ: Based upon the definition you have sir up there, no.

GREEN: We don't have operational control?

ORTIZ: No sir.

GREEN: But is Secretary Mayorkas lying?

ORTIZ: I don't, I didn't see the rest of the testimony there, sir.

GREEN: He was asked if we have operational control and he said, yes, I, I think it's either, it's either ignorance, which is unacceptable, or it's lying.

REICHARD: Republicans have been seeking to impeach Mayorkas since 2021, when Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs filed articles of impeachment that didn’t pass in the Democrat-controlled House. But a recent filing by House Republican Pat Fallon may go further in the Republican-led House, especially as some Democrats consider crossing the aisle. Here’s Democrat Congressman Juan Vargas at a press conference on Saturday.

VARGAS: I have to tell you, Secretary Mayorkas might come up for an impeachment vote because of what the Republicans have heard. I may vote for it. I may vote to impeach him, but not over those other issues, over this issue. I mean, he told us he would help us and he hasn't done it. 

BROWN: Regardless of how the House investigation diagnoses the problem, WORLD’s Addie Offereins says that the symptoms of border chaos won’t be easy to treat.

ADDIE OFFEREINS: Last year, when we saw record border crossings, we also saw a record number of immigrant deaths at the border. So either immigrants who drowned in the Rio Grande or were dehydrated and died in the desert, or perhaps were murdered by cartels or were in danger from smugglers drowned off the coast of California. We saw a record number of deaths because immigrants are willing to put themselves in dangerous situations because the law is confusing. They don't know what the United States’ laws are. Because quite frankly, a lot of officials in the United States don't know as these laws keep changing, keep getting tied up in the courts, keep changing at the whim of the administration, versus having a concrete and permanent solution by Congress to make these laws clear and simple for immigrants, for border communities and for the people enforcing our laws at the border.

REICHARD: Until Congress steps up to the challenge of clarifying US border policy, life at the border will likely continue to be chaotic.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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