Morgan Griffith: What I saw at the southern border
Some things have to be seen to be believed. I found that to be the case during my recent visit to the southern border with other Members of Congress to investigate the disastrous results of President Biden’s policies.
On his first day in office, President Biden ordered an immediate pause to construction of the border wall. As I saw on the border, this order has led to some absurd outcomes. Construction materials for the wall lie uselessly in the sun mere feet away from areas where illegal immigrants enter the country with impunity
One area currently has fencing that is easily breached. Parts of it are cut frequently by illegal immigrants and must be patched several times a day.
In another area, the mechanisms operating a gate in the wall had yet to be completed upon the order to stop work, leaving it wide open. Now, two Border Patrol agents monitor the gate in twelve-hour shifts instead of roving along the border.
These details characterize the disorder and senselessness of the Biden Administration’s approach to border security. And the consequences go beyond the taxpayer money and material wasted by a halt to a wall already under construction. The health and safety of both Americans and the illegal migrants crossing the border are jeopardized by President Biden’s poor choices.
Crossing the border itself is a danger to illegal immigrants. They make a treacherous journey, often at the mercy of smugglers and traffickers interested in money rather than human life.
A widely-reported incident from earlier this year illustrates the peril. The Border Patrol released video of two girls, aged three and five, being dropped from the top of a fourteen-foot fence. Border Patrol agents showed us the spot where this event took place. They say it was a diversion to draw agents to that spot. Meanwhile, in the areas without a barrier that the agents had been monitoring, migrants and drugs mules were easily smuggled across the border.
When unaccompanied illegal children not of Mexican or Canadian origin are taken into custody, they must then be transferred within 72 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The House Energy and Commerce Committee I serve on has jurisdiction over ORR, so our visit to an ORR facility at Fort Bliss was of particular interest to me.
ORR’s task is to reunite the unaccompanied illegal children with a sponsor, often a parent or relative already in the United States. ORR does not distinguish between legal or illegal immigrant sponsors.
I support family reunification, but reunification should be in the country of origin, not the United States.
Any American parent who leaves their children to make a dangerous journey on their own or in the company of human smugglers would be guilty of neglect, yet the Federal Government under the Biden Administration encourages such neglect by parents of other nationalities.
Further, I learned from our ORR facility visit that the agency tracks down sponsors using people finder-type websites which can provide vague or inaccurate information. ORR then sends these young people by plane, bus, or other mode of transportation to sponsors it knows little about or who may not be who they say they are.
More than people cross the border. Customs and Border Protection has seized more fentanyl in fiscal year 2021 than in all of fiscal year 2020. Fentanyl is a deadly contributor to overdose deaths in our country.
From March to April of this year, seizures of heroin increased by an astounding 97 percent.
These numbers, of course, only represent the drugs that are stopped. As the Border Patrol must turn its attention to the surge in illegal immigrants and processing minors instead of stopping drug smugglers, Americans should be concerned by the amounts of illegal drugs crossing the border undetected.
The situation on the southern border is disturbing, but it is not necessary. The Biden Administration should complete construction of the border wall, an objective of the Finish the Wall Act I recently signed onto as a cosponsor.
The Biden Administration should also speed the processing of migrants. This would allow true asylum seekers to obtain legal status and lead to swift deportation of those without a legitimate claim to stay here.
When I saw a partially-completed wall with open gates and rusting construction materials nearby, I found a perfect representation of the disorder at the border. Americans, as well as those who seek to become Americans the legal way, deserve better.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.
Morgan Griffith represents Virginia’s Ninth District in the U.S. House.