US Border Court Trial’s debut hearing focuses on fentanyl crisis allegation
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee accused the Biden administration of smuggling fentanyl along the U.S.-Mexico border during a hearing Wednesday.
Ohio Chairman Jim Jordan also blamed US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Majorcas for the number of migrants at the border and said there are already hundreds of fentanyl-related deaths this year.
Democrats on the committee dismissed the rhetoric of their Republican counterparts, arguing that much of the fentanyl is seized by US Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry through inspections, rather than brought in by migrants fleeing violence or economic hardship. Instead, the Democrats favored bipartisan immigration reform.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that is one of the leading causes of overdose death in the US, with numbers on the rise in recent years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2014, about 14% of opioid deaths were associated with fentanyl, and in 2017, almost 60% of deaths were associated with fentanyl.
It is also not the type of drug most frequently seized at entry points. For example, in CBP 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, according to CBP statistics.
The top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York, said most drugs are seized at entry points, not from individual migrants.
“The evidence does not show that asylum seekers bring drugs to us,” Nadler said.
This is the first of many hearings House Republicans plan to hold regarding immigration and the US-Mexico border. GOP MPs have also already started laying the groundwork for the impeachment of Mallorcas.
In January, when the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, they introduced a resolution to impeach Majorcas “for grave crimes and misdemeanors.” There are currently 39 Republican sponsors. The House Oversight and Accountability Committee is due to hold its own hearing on immigration on Feb. 7.
Nadler, defending the policies of the Biden administration, said that while many migrant asylum seekers have arrived at the border, the White House has continued to adhere to the controversial Section 42 policy as of 2020, under which more than 2 million migrants have been expelled from the country. refuge.
The Drug Enforcement Administration, an agency of the Justice Department, seized more than 379 million lethal doses of fentanyl last year. Most of the fentanyl was mass-produced in laboratories in Mexico, with the chemicals mostly coming from China, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Jordan introduced one of the witnesses, Brandon Dunn, whose 15-year-old son Noah died of a fentanyl overdose. Dunn now runs the Forever 15 Project, an organization that aims to spread awareness of the fentanyl overdose crisis.
Dunn, who lives in Texas, said he knows the CBP records record fentanyl seizures each year, but he asked lawmakers how many “pounds of fentanyl find their way into thousands of miles of the weakly guarded or controlled southern border?”
Representatives Chip Roy of Texas and Andy Biggs of Arizona, among other Republicans, inaccurately stated that the Biden administration had an “open border” policy on the U.S.-Mexico border and inaccurately stated that the administration was not enforcing the border.
Section 42 was in effect throughout Biden’s tenure, leading to the expulsion of migrants. Democrats and immigration advocacy groups have criticized the Biden administration’s continued use of Section 42, calling the policy cruel and inhumane and a violation of U.S. law that allows a noncitizen to seek asylum. This year, the Supreme Court must decide whether to strike down Section 42.
One of the judicial branch’s witnesses, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, said the Biden administration did not pay enough attention to border issues and said that Vice President Kamala Harris, who was brought in by President Joe Biden to resolve border issues, did not do enough work.
According to the Arizona Mirror, Dunnels was known for ties to the Association of Constitutional Sheriffs and Law Enforcers, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as an anti-government extremist organization that tracks domestic extremism. According to the Mirror, Arizona has become the epicenter of the extremist anti-government sheriff movement.
Support for migrants
One witness, Ricardo Samaniego, a district judge in El Paso, detailed to lawmakers how his county created the Migrant Support Center to help migrants connect with families and sponsors and ensure safe passage for these migrants to their sponsors.
“No migrant is put on a bus and sent to another city without approval and without a sponsor waiting in the host city,” he said in his opening remarks.
He said that the process sees migrants processed quickly, and he dropped 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, and there are no hordes of undocumented immigrants committing crimes against citizens or causing havoc in our community.”
Samaniego said the narrative used to describe the migrants is false and perpetuates violence. His community faced a hate crime in 2019 when a white supremacist attacked a Walmart, killing 23 people and injuring 23 others because he believed a white nationalist and anti-immigration manifesto and specifically targeted Hispanics.
Rep. Lance Gooden, a Texas Republican, disagreed with Samaniego’s statement and said “you called some of us racists” and also disagreed with several Catholic charities that protect immigrants.
“Migrants are completely encroaching on this country,” Gooden said.
Samaniego did not name a single Republican on the committee as racist, nor did he name any particular party. He said that false stories that numerous migrants were “invading” the country were racist and could lead to violence.
“I said using these narratives creates more racism in the community,” Samaniego said.
More criticism of Mallorcas
Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a Republican from New Jersey, said that not a single Republican on the committee was opposed to immigration, and that was not the purpose of the hearing.
He said problems on the US-Mexico border needed to be addressed because Mallorcas could not be trusted and was not forthright about what was going on.
“This guy is a liar,” he said of Mallorcas. “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 Pennsylvania Democrat, said the Republicans on the committee have a radical plan to shut down the safe haven for everyone.
“What I find particularly damaging is the attempt to combine the concerns of migrant asylum seekers in our legal processes with the very real scourge of the fentanyl trade,” she said.
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