WASHINGTON – U.S. House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee blamed the Biden administration for smuggling the drug fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border during a hearing Wednesday.
President Jim Jordan of Ohio also blamed US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for the number of migrants at the border and said there were already hundreds of fentanyl-related deaths this year.
Democrats on the committee rejected the rhetoric of their Republican colleagues, arguing that most fentanyl is seized through US Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry through screening and is not brought in by migrants fleeing violence or economic hardship. . Instead, Democrats supported bipartisan immigration reform.
Fentanyl is a potent opioid that is a leading cause of overdose deaths in the United States, increasing in recent years. In 2014, about 14 percent of opioid-related deaths were related to fentanyl, and in 2017, nearly 60 percent of deaths were related to fentanyl, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
It is also not the most commonly seized drug at ports of entry. For example, in CBP’s fiscal year 2022, more than 70,000 pounds of cocaine and more than 175,000 pounds of methamphetamine were seized, compared to nearly 15,000 pounds of fentanyl, CBP statistics show.
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, said most drugs are seized at ports of entry and not from individual migrants.
“The evidence does not prove that asylum seekers are bringing drugs to our shores,” Nadler said.
This is the first of many hearings House Republicans intend to hold regarding immigration and the US-Mexico border. Even GOP lawmakers have already started laying the groundwork for Mayorkas’ impeachment.
In January, as Republicans won control of the House, they introduced a resolution indicting Mayorkas “for serious crimes and misdemeanors.” There are currently 39 Republican co-sponsors. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee will hold its hearing on immigration on February 7.
Nadler, defending the Biden administration’s policy, said that while many asylum-seeking migrants have come to the border, the White House has continued to maintain a controversial Title 42 policy since 2020 that has expelled more than 2 million migrants from entering the country and claiming asylum.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency within the Justice Department, seized more than 379 million fatal doses of fentanyl last year. According to the DEA, most of the fentanyl was mass-produced in labs in Mexico, with chemicals largely sourced from China.
Jordan introduced one of the witnesses, Brandon Dunn, whose 15-year-old son, Noah, died of a fentanyl overdose. Dunn now runs an organization, the Forever 15 Project, to spread awareness of the fentanyl overdose crisis.
Dunn, who lives in Texas, said he was aware that CBP had record-breaking catches of fentanyl every year, but asked lawmakers, How many pounds of fentanyl are crossing the thousands of miles of poorly guarded or monitored southern border?
Representatives Chip Roy of Texas and Andy Biggs of Arizona, among other Republicans, have inaccurately claimed that the Biden administration had an “open border” policy on the US-Mexico border and have inaccurately claimed that the administration was not enforcing the border.
Title 42 has been in effect throughout Biden’s term, leading to the expulsion of migrants. Democrats and immigration advocacy groups have criticized the Biden administration’s continued use of Title 42, calling the policy cruel and inhumane and a violation of U.S. law that allows a non-citizen to claim asylum. The Supreme Court will decide this year whether to strike down Title 42.
One of the judiciary witnesses, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, said the Biden administration was not adequately addressing the border and said Vice President Kamala Harris, who was selected by President Joe Biden to address the issues border, has not done enough work.
According to the Arizona Mirror, Dannels has known ties to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, which is labeled an antigovernment extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic extremism. Arizona has become ground zero for an extremist, anti-government sheriff movement, the Mirror reported.
Support for migrants
One of the witnesses, El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, detailed to lawmakers how his county set up a migrant support services center to help connect migrants with relatives and sponsors and provide a ride. safe for those migrants to reach their sponsors.
“No migrant is put on a bus and sent to another city without coordination and a sponsor waiting in the receiving city,” he said in his opening statement.
He said that through this process, migrants are processed quickly and dismissed the narrative that El Paso was overwhelmed with migrants and that there was no orderly process.
“There is no open border,” Samaniego said. “There is no invasion, nor are there hordes of undocumented immigrants committing crimes against citizens or wreaking havoc in our community.”
Samaniego said the narrative used to describe the migrants is false and perpetuates the violence. His community suffered a hate crime in 2019 when a white supremacist targeted a Walmart, killing 23 people and injuring 23 others because they believed a white nationalist, anti-immigration manifesto, and had specifically targeted latins.
Congressman Lance Gooden, a Republican from Texas, disputed Samaniego’s statement and said “you called a lot of us racists,” and also took issue with several Catholic charities that support immigrants.
“Migrants are absolutely invading this country,” Gooden said.
Samaniego did not call any of the Republicans on the committee racist, nor did he call out any particular party. He said false narratives claiming that large numbers of migrants are “invading” the country are racist and can lead to violence.
“What I said is using those narratives, it creates more racism in a community,” Samaniego said.
More criticism of Mayorkas
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a Republican from New Jersey, said that no Republican on the committee was anti-immigration and that was not the purpose of the hearing.
He said the US-Mexico border issues need to be looked into because Mayorkas cannot be trusted and he is not being truthful about what is happening.
“That boy is a liar,” he said of Mayorkas. “When he tells me he’s going to watch something, he doesn’t. When he tells you he’s going to do something, he doesn’t.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, said Republicans on the committee have a radical plan to close the asylum to everyone.
“What I find particularly pernicious is the attempt to confuse the issues of migrants seeking legal asylum through our legal processes with the real scourge of fentanyl trafficking,” he said.