House Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited the Arizona southern border on Thursday, arguing that it is controlled by the cartels and that 'no-one believes' the border is secure as the Biden administration claims.
McCarthy was in Cochise County, Arizona, with freshman Reps. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., Jen Kiggans, R-Va., and Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis.,
McCarthy spoke after meeting with local officials and taking an aerial tour of that part of the border, which he said has seen some of the largest percentages of gotaways along the border. He dismissed claims by multiple administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Vice President Kamala Harris that the border is 'secure.'
'No-one believes our border is secure, not the border agents, not America,' he said. 'Mayorkas has no integrity to continue to say that.'
He noted the ongoing fentanyl crisis in the U.S. Fentanyl, which can be fatal in tiny doses and kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, is primarily made by Chinese precursors in Mexico and then smuggled into the U.S. across the land border. McCarthy highlighted the domination of Mexican cartel influence, and said that it is they, not any government, that controls that part of the border.
'The Sinaloa Cartel controls who comes across and the amount of drugs that come across,' he said.
Republicans have been locked in a war of words with the administration over the ongoing migrant crisis at the border -- which is now into its third year and has seen historic numbers of migrants flooding into the U.S. Republians, including McCarthy, have floated the possibility of impeaching Mayorkas over the administration's handling of the crisis.
McCarthy put the blame squarely on the administration for its policies.
'This is a fundamental problem,' he said. 'This is a problem created by this administration.'
'This has all got to change,' he said. 'This is our commitment and this is what we’re going to make happen.'
Republicans have pointed frequently to the massive spike in illegal immigration under the administration and tied it to the rollback of Trump-era policies, including the ending of border wall construction and narrowed interior Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities.
The administration, meanwhile, has pushed back. It has claimed it is dealing with a hemisphere-wide challenge and has blamed Congress for failing to fix a 'broken' immigration system and provide necessary funding for the border.
Although January’s overall encounters were the highest January on record, the administration has noted the sharp drop from 251,000 encounters in December to more than 156,000 in January – including the lowest number of illegal crossings since February 2021 – as proof that recent border measures announced by President Biden last month are working. Those measures include a parole program to allow 30,000 migrants from four nationalities in each month, and it is now facing a lawsuit from 20 Republican-led states.
'Since President Biden took action to implement new border enforcement and immigration measures last month, illegal border crossings are down to their lowest levels in years,' White House spokesman Ian Sams said ahead of the McCarthy visit. 'Perhaps seeing this progress will spur House Republicans to do some soul-searching.'
'Why did they oppose record funding secured by President Biden to strengthen border security and catch record levels of fentanyl? Why won’t they support President Biden’s plan to fund border security now? Why won’t they ask their Republican attorneys general colleagues to stop suing to end the very programs that are reducing unlawful crossings?' he said. 'House Republicans should spend less time on partisan publicity stunts and more time working on solutions.'
President Biden used his State of the Union to call for not only more funding for border officials, but also renewed calls for a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country. The latter is something Republicans in the House have pledged to oppose since Biden first introduced such a plan in early 2021.
The lawmakers at the border said they wanted to find solutions to the crisis as well, although it is unclear where common ground might lie.
'So we are here to do exactly that, not play any kind of politics with this, but to find real solutions that will start saving lives,' Rep. Ciscomani said.
John Ladd, a rancher in the area who hosted the lawmakers, said those at the border like himself had been dealing with the problem for too long.
'I’m very hopeful this is the beginning of a new change in what we’re seeing out of Washington,' he said.
On Friday, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries will visit the border in Laredo, Texas. According to a press release, the tour will examine 'various aspects of homeland security and border operations.'