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GOP Homeland Security Committee Members Head to the Border, Democrats Go 'AWOL'

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House members on the Homeland Security Committee took their hearing on the road Wednesday for a closer look at what's happening on the U.S. southern border.

It marks the first of several field trips planned by Republicans to investigate the Biden administration's immigration policies, and any connection they may have to the influx of migrants flooding into the U.S.

Democrats on the committee chose to stay home, calling the move a "political stunt." 

Committee Chairman U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn) defended the decision to hold Wednesday's hearing in Texas, saying it's important that lawmakers get a first-hand look at what's going on if they're going to make informed decisions about how to move forward. He had harsh words for the absent committee members.

"You can't have bipartisanship if the other side fails to show up for their duty. In the Army, when someone doesn't show up we called them AWOL, or Absent Without Leave. Their place of duty is at this hearing because it's a full hearing and they're not here, they're AWOL," Green said during his opening statement.

Since taking over the majority, House Republicans have made clear their intent to fix the southern border crisis. 

This hearing focused on changes the Biden administration made to U.S. immigration policies when it took over. 

"In fiscal year 2020, the policy was detain and remove. The entire objective was, avoid releasing any illegal immigrant for any reason. In 2021, Secretary Mayorkas gutted all those policies. Do you acknowledge that the driver of the crisis that you have described, the dramatic change in flow, is the policy to release instead of detain or remove illegal immigrants," U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) asked U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz. 

"Law enforcement's pretty simple. You have to have capacity and consequences. If you don't see consequences, you're going to see increases," Ortiz replied. 

Ortiz admitted DHS doesn't have operational control of the southern border, pointing to five sectors that are not currently secure.

Sheriff Brad Coe of Kenny County, Texas, said his jurisdiction is under siege due to the number of border crossings by illegal immigrants and smugglers.

"We're averaging about 160 to 180 people per night going through the county unchallenged. That comes out to roughly 60,000 people that entered through my county this year," Coe told lawmakers.

The hearing also focused on how Mexican cartels are using the chaotic border situation to flood the U.S. with drugs like Fentanyl. 

"I live in Georgia, my state is not a border state. But let me inform you of some of the things we're dealing with. Fentanyl-involved deaths have increased by over 230 percent since Biden took office. In my district alone we have had Fentanyl involved deaths increase by over 350 percent," said U.S Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

Assistant Director for Homeland Security Investigations Stephen Cagan told lawmakers his teams have found that China is the source of the Fentanyl supply chain, producing the chemicals needed to make the drug and shipping them to Mexican labs. 

"We've seized 3.3 million pounds of pre-cursor chemicals coming from China entering into Mexico," he told lawmakers.

Republicans say testimony like what they heard in Wednesday's hearing will not only help them shape future legislation but also hold the Biden administration accountable. 

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About The Author

Caitlin Burke Headshot

Caitlin Burke serves as National Security Correspondent and a general assignment reporter for CBN News. She has also hosted the CBN News original podcast, The Daily Rundown. Some of Caitlin’s recent stories have focused on the national security threat posed by China, America’s military strength, and vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid. She joined CBN News in July 2010, and over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to cover stories both domestically and abroad. Caitlin began her news career working as a production assistant in Richmond, Virginia, for the NBC affiliate WWBT