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Lankford Dives into the Details of Addressing National Security Concerns at the Border

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s opening remarks and Q&A on YouTube.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management hearing. Lankford is the lead Republican on the Subcommittee. The hearing, entitled, “The Non-Governmental Organization Perspective on the Southwest Border,” examined some of the issues non-governmental organizations (NGOs) see as the biggest contributors to the crisis at the southern border and to some of the broken policies in our immigration system. Lankford’s questions and opening remarks focused on whether current law is being enforced at the border and how to address national security threats, human and drug trafficking, and surges of unaccompanied minors at our southern border.

Lankford took a trip to the Arizona border earlier this month during which he visited the unfinished border wall system on the southern border that was halted by the Biden Administration. Lankford also traveled to Texas with a delegation of Senators to tour the Rio Grande Valley area of the southern border as part of his ongoing work to provide necessary oversight of the crisis. Lankford spoke about the situation at the southern border on the Senate floor and sent a letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro highlighting President Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification.

Witnesses at today’s hearing included Beth Strano, the Asylum Seekers and Families Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee; Ruben Garcia, the Director of the Annunciation House; and Joshua Jones, the Senior Fellow on Border Security at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Excerpts

On President Biden’s failure to enforce laws at our border

Lankford: …I’m concerned about the series of policy decisions that still need to be made and some of the decisions that were made at the White House that actually have led to this crisis. President Biden on the first day of his administration began rolling back many of the policies of President Trump that he had put in place when we faced a similar surge in 2019 only a smaller surge than the one we’re facing now. These policies that were put in place by the previous administration strengthened our security and stabilized our border. Policies that now enrich the human trafficking cartels are beginning to rise again and it’s putting thousands of people in danger. I took trips to the southwest border during the 2019 crisis as well because we had also worked on this issue at that time as well and during the ongoing crisis this year. In fact, I went to the Donna Texas Facility that’s so well known now from housing so many unaccompanied minors. I was there in 2019 and there in 2021 and I can tell you I was shocked to be able to see the difference between the two…

On skyrocketing asylum claims and the tremendous backlog of cases

Lankford: We are seeing something very unique at this point. We’re well over a million people in the asylum backlog, and as I mentioned before we’re three years deep before people will get to a court hearing. As of the end of February, the next date that was available was May the 22nd, 2024 to be able to get an asylum hearing, which is very difficult for anyone who has a legitimate asylum claim because we have so many people coming through that do not have a legitimate asylum claim… 

On drug interdiction at the border

Lankford: What can we do in the United States from what you have seen to be able to deal with some of those issues on how we can deal with the drug problem?

Jones: In terms of drugs moving across the border as opposed to people moving across the border, when we get west of the Rio Grande Valley, in other words in New Mexico, Arizona and California border—most drugs are crossed either through tunnels or directly through the port… most drugs and people cross just straight across the river. It’s extraordinarily difficult to police from a CBP standpoint. I think in terms of what we can do from a law enforcement standpoint to help is focus on technology. Technology to detect tunnels, technology to figure a way to account for the fact that it’s very difficult to build a wall in a river valley here in Texas. And separate from that, to account for the fact that sometimes in these ports where drugs are being moved across is because a CBP personnel being bought off by drug cartels. So there are corruption issues on that end there at the ports as well.

On enforcing our existing border security laws

Lankford: In meeting with Border Patrol and CBP, they are very concerned that Title 42 authority will go away, and if that goes away, what will happen in the acceleration of additional individuals coming across the border. When I have spoken to Border Patrol and CBP, they’ve brought that up over and over again to say we have this incredible rush at the border right now. If Title 42 authority goes away, that rush is going to accelerate to a whole different level, and it will move from unmanageable to really really unmanageable at that point. So it will be interesting to be able to see the decision that President Biden and his team make on how they’re going to enforce the border and what that actually looks like for them.  

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For more information about Senator Lankford, visit: www.lankford.senate.gov.

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