(Ken Silva, Headline USA) DHS Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz said Wednesday that his department does not have full operational control over the country’s southern border, directly contradicting earlier statements made by his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Ortiz talked about the DHS’s lack of operational control at the border during a House Homeland Security hearing on Wednesday in Texas. Ortiz was being questioned by Chairman Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn.
After hearing from Ortiz, Green played footage of a committee hearing from last April, when Mayorkas claimed that the DHS does, in fact, have operational control—which the Secure Fence Act of 2006 defines as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States.”
Green asked Ortiz whether Mayorkas was lying last year when he told Congress that the DHS has operational control at the border. Ortiz responded that he doesn’t know because he didn’t see Mayorkas’s full testimony.
“You saw it, he said yes. It’s either ignorance, which is unacceptable, or it’s lying,” Green asserted, citing statistics such as the 4.7 million migrant encounters under the Biden administration, the 1.3 million-plus “got-aways”—migrants who escape the authorities—as well as the “record number” of crossings of people on the terrorist watchlist, gang encounters and drug seizures.
According to recent data from Customs and Border Patrol, U.S. border encounters have increased from about 400,000 per year in the 2010s to 1.6 million in 2021 and 2.2 million last year—marking new record highs.
Ortiz attributed the lack of border security to “the severe impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on migration.”
But when pressed by the committee on the issue, the DHS official admitted that Biden administration policy had a large role in the recent spike in numbers. In response to a question from Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., about whether a change in border policy caused the influx of illegal alien crossings, Ortiz said, “We have need to ensure that the men and women patrolling the border and investigating criminal cartels are actually allowed to do their job each and every day.”
“And their job is to detain or remove illegal immigrants?” Bishop asked further.
“Yes,” Ortiz said.
Additionally, Ortiz said a return to Trump-era immigration policies in January—blocking Cuban, Haitian and Nicaraguans from staying in the country during their asylum applications—has led to a “marked decrease” in border encounters.
While the DHS official’s testimony seems to have undercut the Biden administration’s assertions about the border, no Democrats were at the committee meeting to hear the testimony. Democrats also skipped a House Judiciary Committee border hearing in Arizona last month, calling the trip a “political stunt.”
“They said coming here was just a political stunt,” Green said Wednesday. “I’d say the political stunt is these empty chairs.”
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.