Lankford Saw Stacks of Steel, Wide Open Border in Yuma As Biden’s Border Crisis Continues
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), the lead Republican on the Border Management Subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, recently traveled to the southern border in Yuma, Arizona to assess the challenges facing border law enforcement and the legislative action necessary to close loopholes in our border security and immigration processes. On the Senate floor today, Lankford discussed what he learned in Yuma and addressed some of the challenges Border Patrol raised during his time there as well as commonsense solutions that could be implemented immediately to solve the thousands of people illegally crossing our border every day and secure the border.
In Yuma, Lankford met directly with federal law enforcement and toured the US Border Patrol (USBP) Yuma Sector headquarters, the Yuma Sector Centralized Processing Center (CPC) for migrants, and the San Luis port of entry. Lankford also receive a briefing from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Just before his travel, Lankford spoke on the Senate floor in support of a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to dissolve a proposed Biden Administration rule that would illegally upend the process by which the US government grants asylum claims to migrants. Lankford joined Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and 29 Senators to introduce the resolution in April. The resolution failed to pass in the Senate in a vote of 46 to 48.
Lankford sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on his concerns about efforts to re-implement the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers. Lankford has repeatedly asked for information and raised significant questions about whether DHS is following the District Court’s order to resume the program in “good faith.”
Lankford is leading the charge to push back on the Biden Administration’s plans to revoke temporary, pandemic-related Title 42 authority and to stop the ongoing chaos at the southern border amid Biden’s hypocrisy about COVID. After the highest year on record for illegal crossings this past year and 221,000 encounters of border crossers last month, Lankford introduced the Public Health and Border Security Act to require all COVID-19 related national states of emergency to be lifted before Title 42 is officially terminated until a workable plan to replace it is put in place.
Over Memorial Day weekend, I spent a chunk of it in Yuma, Arizona. Glorious Yuma, Arizona—107 in the daytime and 102 at sundown—for those of us from Oklahoma not used to that kind of heat. But it was very helpful to be able to be there, to be on the ground, and to see what’s happening at that particular border area. You see, each area of the border is a little bit different. But what we’re experiencing right now on our southern border is a continual rolling, chaotic crisis there. It’s interesting to me—I will have people catch me occasionally in Oklahoma and say it seems like things are going better because I don’t hear the media talking about what’s happening at the border anymore. I’ll smile at them and say well, you remember last summer when the media was focused on the southern border? We had 6,000 people illegally crossing a day at that time. Now we have 8,000 people illegally crossing a day. 8,000.
In fact, last month, when a quarter-million people that illegally crossed the border in one month. That was a record, by the way. The previous record for a one-month illegal crossing was the month before. Things continue to get worse. But each area of the border is a little bit different. Now, I had not been to this particular border crossing in Yuma, Arizona, to be able to see how things are different there, but this is one of the either number one or number two most trafficked areas for illegal traffic across the entire southern border at this point.
Well, you see, when you’re in Yuma, Arizona first, when you get there to the fencing area is that you notice THIS. You notice in Yuma, Arizona, that you’ve got a port of entry that’s there and at the port of entry, you have miles and miles of border fence and then a gap in the fence where January the 20th of 2021, construction was on to be able to complete this but literally that day it stopped and so that gap has never been closed. And so, border crossings look like this.
Another good picture of it is a picture like THIS. This scenario where there is a dam on the Mexico side and on the American side, there’s the fencing, at least there was going to be fencing. There’s fencing on both sides of this and so individuals literally just step over this dam, walk over, and walk right up into the country. You say ‘Why is this not complete? Is it that we ran out of materials?’ Actually, if you go just a mile from that last picture in the desert, you’ll see THIS. Just stacks and stacks and stacks of steel, of 30-foot sections all cut ready to go to be able to close those gaps. But those gaps are not being closed because the Biden Administration a year-and-a-half ago determined they were not going to close those gaps. They were going to just leave them open. And so there they sit open. So that’s one of the issues. That’s different in Yuma than in some of the other areas where they’ve just literally let the steel sit horizontally in the desert rather than being installed vertically, what it was designed for.
Second big issue is in this area because of those gaps in the fence, individuals as they fly into Yuma, they’re not coming in long caravans to be able to come in. They’re literally flying into Mexicali, Mexico, taking a charter bus that the cartels have organized for them where they’ll pick them up at the airport, load up in a charter bus. They’ll drive them up to the gaps in the fence with the bus and allow them be able to just step across the border. They’re literally—I could see it. They’ll literally step across the border and stand there and wait for the Border Patrol to come pick them up like it’s Uber XL coming to pick them up in their spot. They know if I stand on this side of the fence and wait long enough, Border Patrol will come by, pick them up in a van, take them to the processing area where they get processed, and then within a couple of days released into the country wherever they want to go.
These individuals are traveling from all over the world. In fact, when I met with some of the leadership there in Yuma, Arizona, I just asked the question, you know, ‘How are things going, what’s happening in different spots, what are you seeing?’ One of the folks there said, ‘Well, last week, we encountered people from 50 different countries crossing just in this spot.’ Why is that? Because the border remains open and people from all over the world know they can fly to Mexicali, Mexico, pay the cartels and the current going rate is between $7,000 and $15,000 a person for that section of the border. They get on the buses, they drive up to the border and they step across.
Now, it’s a different kind of thing. We sometimes see pictures of people that have traveled 3,000 miles in a caravan. And by the way, there’s another caravan that’s actually organizing through Central America right now and coming through Mexico. The current caravan has estimated 6,000 people in it that are walking their way up and traveling their way up through Central America and Mexico right now. But the folks coming through Yuma, Arizona, are not like that. They step across the border and they’re carrying luggage with them. In fact, Border Patrol has had to actually limit the weight that they could actually bring in luggage to no more than 50 pounds because as they come into the processing area, they’re carrying their luggage with them. They’re dressed in nice clothes. They’re clean. They just got a shower the day before. They come across the border and they wait on Border Patrol. We take them into the processing area.
When I got to the processing area, one of the Border Patrol agents walked up to me and said, ‘you see the lady behind you?’ And I turned around and said, ‘yes.’ He said, she’s wearing a Versace dress. I said ‘that should probably mean something to me as a guy but it doesn’t.’ My wife explained to me later that’s a pretty expensive dress. Why are we seeing people like that crossing the border? Because it’s easier to come in illegally into the country now than it is legally. Most years we have a million people a year that legally cross our border, legally. That go through the process, fill out the paperwork. We do a background check on those individuals. They come through and come into our country and we celebrate people that legally come into our country and have for over two centuries.
These individuals are finding it’s faster and cheaper just to pay the cartel, fly to Mexico, walk across the border, and when you walk across the border, you’re in the country not just for a few months. Right now, when you walk across the border and enter into this area, as you walk across the border, you’re given a work permit and the ability to stay in the United States for eight years until your asylum hearing comes up. Why do we have people coming from all over the world? We have a million people doing it legally, but last year we had 2 million people do it illegally because it’s faster just to illegally come to the border.
Let me ask a simple question of this body. ‘Do we really want a system that incentivizes illegal activity as the entrants into the United States of America?’ Because right now, the incentive is to come illegally into the country. Let me phrase it this way. For the individuals that come across this border, we do not do a background check on these individuals. We have no idea any criminal history they have from the country they’re coming from. We do a background check with American records. We know if they’ve committed a crime here in the past. But we have no idea any of the countries they’re coming from. Let me remind you in Yuma, when I was there a week ago, the week before 50 different nations crossed that border that week. We have no criminal background check on any of those individuals.
What else happens with this? Because of the chaos happening here and border patrol having to run their Uber XL vans to be able to pick people up and take them to processing and they have to come off the line to come into the processing center, what else is happening? The open desert areas not far from here where they know the drug traffickers are actually moving large quantities of drugs, they don’t have enough agents to be able to patrol that anymore. They can see them on cameras. They just don’t have enough people to get to it. The check points that are on the highways typically leaving out from this area to try to pick up the gun and drug smugglers coming in and out of the country, those check points don’t exist anymore. Why? Because they don’t have enough staff anymore because they’re managing this chaos at the border.
We are losing our security presence on our southern border because the President is incentivizing illegal immigration, and it’s taking everybody that’s there for our national security to actually be on the border to manage the check-in staff for people coming in. This is a ticking time bomb. It is solvable.
Let me give you just some very basic things on this. Number one: keep Title 42 in place. The Border Patrol that I speak to when I talk to the folks on the line, their number one fear is the Biden Administration is going to cancel Title 42. Now, currently the court is prohibiting them from doing that. But their biggest concern is if the Biden Administration cancels Title 42, even more people will come across and this chaos will be even worse. That’s their number one issue. Keep Title 42 authority in place.
The second thing is: stop giving people that cross the border between a port of entry and illegally cross, stop giving them work permits. That incentivizes people to cross between the ports of entry in illegal fashion. The Administration could do that right now.
Third thing: stop giving people a free pass to come into the country for eight years, to stay in the country while they await their asylum hearing. Do—whoever is last in, first up for the asylum hearings, and do it right there at the border. The asylum hearings can be done in less than a month, and do it right there at the border. And so, they have to remain in place to have their hearing. What happens is these individuals cross the border. They cross the border. They get their eight-year pass in the country. They get their work permit. They snap a picture of it. They send it to their family back home, and say, ‘I paid this cartel member this much money. I crossed in this spot. I sat at this line when I got there. I’m in the country. Come join me.’ And it keeps accelerating. That’s a policy decision that the Administration could stop now. They’re choosing not to stop now.
And the final thing on it again is not hard: close that gap. Why is this so hard? Close that gap. We have fewer people crossing in California right now than we do in Yuma. Why is that? Because the gap is closed in California, and while my colleagues scream fences don’t work, why do we have fewer people crossing in California than we do in Yuma, Arizona? Well because there’s a functioning fence in California and a big giant gap in Yuma. This does work and everybody knows it. That’s why the Biden Administration leaves it open because they’re facilitating this.
This is something that’s going to bite our nation. It’s a national security issue, and we should not ignore it. Again, I celebrate legal immigration. I want more of it in our country. This is unchecked illegal activity, and we better pay attention to it.