Republicans are making the border between the U.S. and Mexico into something like an extension of the House of Representatives campus. After a two-week break, GOP-led House committees held a lot of hearings and trips to the border, and more are in the works.
Republicans are trying to put the blame for drug trafficking, national security, and the humanitarian crisis on the Biden administration, even though the number of migrants at the southern border is still close to a record high. And they think that being there will make more people dislike the policies of the Democrats.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) went to the border in Cochise County, Arizona, on Thursday with Reps. Juan Ciscomani (Arizona), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (Oregon), Jen Kiggans (Virginia), and Derrick Van Orden, who won seats from Democrats in 2022. (Wis.).
McCarthy said that the GOP’s actions at the border are meant to get Democrats to pay attention. He said this from a rancher’s land with the border fence in the background. The location was found using GPS coordinates instead of an address.
“The new majority in Congress, we’re gonna fight to fix this problem. No longer will the Democrats be able to ignore the issue and act like it’s not happening,” McCarthy said. “We will have hearings on the border. It’s the responsibility of all members to attend. Those who come to testify will come from both sides of the aisle.”
The investigations and health subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a joint field hearing in McAllen, Texas, on Wednesday. They said that President Biden’s border policies have led to deaths from fentanyl, which is a public health crisis. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next Thursday in Yuma, Arizona, near the border.
A source on the committee says that next week, members of the House Homeland Security Committee will go to El Paso, Texas, for a “border boot camp.” The goal of the camp is to teach new members about how Customs and Border Protection and the Texas Department of Public Safety work on a daily basis. In March, there will be a hearing at the border.
Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), the new chair of the Homeland Security Committee, wants to hire full-time staff at the U.S.-Mexico border. Last month, when he was chosen as chair, he told reporters that those staffers will “keep us up to date in real time” on problems at the border.
This month, the House Oversight and Reform Committee held a hearing in Washington, D.C., about the border. They also plan to go south in the future for oversight work. People who care about the border are glad to see Republicans there.
“It’s really common sense. It’s what leaders do. They go to the heart of the crisis, whether it’s a hurricane or tornado, a terrorist attack, it doesn’t matter,” Mark Morgan, the former chief operating officer and acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection during the Trump administration, told The Hill. “When you physically see it up close and personal, it changes your understanding. It changes your perspective.”
Morgan, who is now a visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, talked about how seeing Border Patrol agents interact with migrants in person affected him emotionally. And he criticized White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for saying last year, “It’s not like someone just walks over the border,” which he said was not true.
“That is exactly what they do all day long,” Morgan said. “Had she spent 30 seconds at the border — 30 seconds — she would have seen … It would have changed her understanding; it would have changed her perception.”
But Democrats think that the activities are just ways to get attention. Rep. Ral Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona whose district includes parts of Cochise County, went to the border on Thursday and criticized how Republicans are talking about it.
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“I don’t see this thing as serious, what McCarthy’s doing, parachuting in, doing the photo-op, hanging out with the one rancher and Sheriff [Dannels], taking their word as Bible and moving on,” Grijalva told The Hill on Thursday.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels is a favorite witness on border issues for the GOP and a frequent guest on Fox News, but he has been accused by Democrats and immigration advocates of espousing an anti-immigrant agenda.
“I would have gone to the cities and the communities that are on the border. I would have him go and sit down with the people in Douglas, sit down with the people in Nogales, sit down with the people in San Luis and Somerton, sit down with the people in Naco, sit down with the people in Sasabe, sit down with the people that do business on that border, sit down with the families that have been there multi-generationally, sit down with them and talk about their needs and their perception of the border,” Grijalva said.
On Wednesday, a White House spokesman laughed off McCarthy’s trip, saying, “House Republicans should spend less time on partisan publicity stunts and more time working on solutions.” And Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee won’t be at the hearing in Yuma next week.
Ranking member Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement subcommittee ranking member Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said in a joint statement Thursday that there had been “no consultation” with Democrats about the hearing and that many Democratic members had already committed to other congressional delegation trips.
They called it a “brazen act of political grandstanding” and said, “As a result, Democrats who have been to the border often in the past few years will not attend next week’s showy hearing.” Also, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee will go to the border next month, where we will hear from locals and government officials.
The House Judiciary GOP said in a tweet that this was “FAKE NEWS” and that Republicans had been talking with Democrats about the trip for weeks. They shared a video of comments made by Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) at the committee’s first meeting to let the minority know about a planned trip to the border that week.
The committee tweeted, “They just don’t want to face the harsh facts of the #BidenBorderCrisis.” There is also the possibility that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will be removed from his job. Those who want to get rid of him say that he doesn’t have “operational control.”
McCarthy has not said that he will impeach Mayorkas, but he has said that it won’t be “political.” But in November, he asked Mayorkas to resign or face investigations by the House GOP. He warned that this could lead to his being removed from office.
But even as they try to get people to pay attention to the border and attack Democrats, Republicans can’t agree on how to fix immigration laws. GOP leaders had planned to quickly bring a bill to the House floor that would let the Homeland Security secretary turn away migrants in order to get “operational control” at the border.
This plan fell through because moderate Republicans like Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) said the bill was “anti-immigrant.” Now, Republicans are working on laws about the border and immigration that will go through the normal committee process.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas inside Congress. It’s different than the Congress before,” McCarthy said at the border Thursday. “We’re just not going to write the bill and put it onto the floor. We’re going to listen to the people that are on the border. We’re going to listen to border agents. We want the very best ideas.”
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