On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Biden Administration to Put Policies in Place to Deter Illicit Narcotic & Human Traffickers

WASHINGTON, DC – On the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, once again urged the Biden administration to secure the southern border, and reform the asylum process that acts as a pull factor to attract unlawful migrants to the United States. Portman pressed the Biden administration to take action on the ongoing migrant and drug crisis at the southern border and put policies in place to deter illicit narcotics and human traffickers. 

Last month, Portman and Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) published a report titled “Biden’s Border Crisis: Examining Policies that Encourage Illegal Migration” outlining how the administration’s policies have resulted in the crisis at the southern border and incentivized unlawful migration. This week, they introduced the Solving the Border Crisis Act to secure the southern border by resuming construction of the border wall, strengthening management and enforcement capacities, and upholding the rule of law. 

Last year, Portman visited the southern border in Nogales, Arizona where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing crisis and spoke to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers about the need for more and better technology to adequately scan all incoming passenger and commercial vehicles for drugs and other contraband. Portman also visited El Paso, Texas where Border Patrol agents highlighted the challenges they face due to the surge in illicit narcotics and unlawful migrants at our southern border. The influx of illicit narcotics is resulting in a record number of overdose deaths in Ohio and throughout the country.  

Last month, Portman issued a statement after CBP released operational statistics showed that May broke April’s record for the highest number of border encounters on record, and that more than 1,100 pounds of fentanyl were seized – enough to kill 200 million Americans, which makes it clear that this administration’s border crisis will soon be a catastrophe. 

A transcript of the floor speech can be found below and a video can be found here

“I’m on the floor today to talk about border security, a humanitarian, a national security, a community safety issue with direct connection to the drug epidemic we see in communities all around the country, including my home state of Ohio. I’m also here to talk about legislation I introduced today with Senator Jim Risch to address this crisis. So we are in the middle right now of what is the biggest border crisis in the history of our country. If you measure it by the number of people who are coming to the border unlawfully, and as the Biden administration says, people who are encountering the Border Patrol. The Biden administration claims they have the border under control and that they are, and I’m quoting, ‘doing a good job.’ This chart, though, tells a really different story. It shows that as of May, which is the last month that we have records for, we had the highest number of border encounters on record. The second highest, by the way, was the month before, April. So you see, this goes back to 2019, there was a surge here, 144,000. Here we have the inauguration of President Biden, and then we’ve had big increases, again, to the point that over the last couple of months we’ve had record numbers of people who have come unlawfully to the border and been stopped by, apprehended by, the Border Patrol. This includes 239,000 total encounters at the border in the month of May, 165,000 were single adult migrants. This does not include those who were not encountered. In other words, those who slipped past the Border Patrol. We haven’t been able to find a precise number for these individuals. The Border Patrol calls this group of people got-aways. But using a conservative estimate from the Border Patrol of 300,000 people who they think got away in the last fiscal year, you would then put the total number of unlawful entries at approximately 286,000 people in one month. If you annualize that, that would be 3.4 million people a year. Think about those numbers. Almost three and a half million people a year coming to our border and attempting to gain entry unlawfully. 

“Today, not all of those who are apprehended are allowed to come into the United States, and that’s because under so called Title 42, roughly half of those individuals who are being apprehended, who are being encountered, are turned back. If they live in Mexico, they are sent back across the border. If they live in a country, say, Ecuador or Guatemala, they are sent back, flown back to their country of origin. But these are people who are being turned away because of Title 42. So what is this Title 42? It is a public health authority. It is an attempt by our government to limit migration or to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. In this case, COVID-19. It allows Customs and Border Protection officers and agents to tell unlawful migrants, you can’t come to the United States for these public health reasons. It only applies, by the way, now to single adults. But as I said earlier, that’s the single biggest group and comprises about 48 percent to 52 percent, about half of the people who are coming up to the border. So even with the use of Title 42, which is acting to discourage people from coming to our border, we are experiencing these record levels. 

“Also experiencing these record levels in these hot summer months. Normally when you get into the summertime where it gets really hot, looking here, May, June, July, August, the number of people coming to the border goes down, not up. It’s over 100 degrees in the desert and at the Rio Grande and almost all of these border crossings along the US-Mexican border. And yet we have more, not less. There’s anecdotal information this is because people are realizing that the administration wants to end Title 42. They have proposed to do that. That’s now in the court system. But the cartels are spreading the message, which is now is the time to come. Because before you were turned away by Title 42. Now, like everybody else, you can come into the United States and stay. And we’ll talk in a moment about what that means. But I think that’s probably true. Probably Title 42 has something to do with it. But I think also it has to do with the fact that more and more people are realizing that if they do come to the border and don’t get stopped by Title 42, they’ll have a chance to come into the United States and live in the United States with their families, perhaps, if not maybe bringing their families later. And everybody wants to come to America. We are a great country. We have our challenges as we talk about on the floor here all the time. But still, we are a country with so many opportunities for people. And folks want to come. And I don’t blame them, I don’t blame them, but we want them to come legally. And we currently have the most generous legal immigration system of any country in the world. 

“About 900,000 people a year, almost a million people a year come legally to the United States, most as legal immigrants, some as refugees, and so we encourage that and we should. In fact, I think we should bring more people in legally, particularly to fill some of the jobs that we need filled, the STEM disciplines we talk about a lot. We need people with the kind of training and background to help our economy grow, but we need people at every level of training, but we want them to come legally and through an orderly process that’s more humane, that doesn’t have all the issues that we’ll talk about tonight, the humanitarian issues at the southern border. In terms of Title 42, we all hope that this public health emergency isn’t necessary going forward because COVID-19 ends. But in the meantime, this border crisis means to me that we’ve got to keep Title 42 in place until we make some changes in policy. Otherwise it will be not just a crisis, it’ll be totally overwhelming. As the Border Patrol say to me, they will lose operational control of the border. Some would argue that’s already happened because so many people coming over at record numbers, often the Border Patrol is distracted by one group of migrants and another group comes in. And I saw this when I was at the border in El Paso, and anybody who’s down at the border has seen this. 

“So they’re already in tough shape. But imagine if 48 percent of the people here who are now being turned away by Title 42 are not going to be turned away, and the number of other people who will come, knowing that that avenue is now open to them. This will be overwhelming. It’s very difficult right now with the laws and the way the laws are being implemented to keep that from happening. That’s why we need a change in policy. It doesn’t have to happen here in Congress. I think we should change the laws, I introduced legislation today to do that. But the administration itself could make these changes. By the way, in the last administration, as you can see, the number of people coming across the border unlawfully, the number of encounters was very low. But the same was true in the Obama administration. After they had a surge of unaccompanied minors, they made changes in the law, and they reduced the number of people who were coming unlawfully to the border as well. It can be done, but there has to be the will to do it. 

“I’m the Ranking Republican on the Senate Committee that has oversight responsibility for the Department of Homeland Security, the Presiding Officer is also on that Committee. This Department of Homeland Security is preparing, they tell us, for a huge increase in migrants after Title 42 has ended. So although they want to end it, they also know that if they do end it, there’s going to be a huge surge, because they’re actually preparing for that. The way they’re doing it is interesting. It’s not so much keeping people from coming into the United States as expediting their flow into the United States. Among other things, instead of processing people at the border, their recommendation is go ahead and put people on buses or other forms of transportation and then do the processing later, perhaps on the buses or where they’re going in the United States. So it’s a way to move people through the process rather than come up with a way to discourage people from coming across the border illegally. DHS’s plan then will facilitate travel throughout the country rather than figuring out how to keep people from coming in the first place by telling them, come legally, but please don’t come to our border illegally. 

“By the way, I think most Americans are very supportive of legal immigration. It’s an important part of who we are. With very few exceptions of Native Americans, we all came from someplace else. All of us have proud stories of our immigrant forebears, our parents, our grandparents, our great grandparents, and it’s enriched our country. It’s part of the fabric of our nation. It’s what makes us special. But that’s legal immigration, and it’s not what we’re talking about here. Who bears the brunt of this crisis? Well, at the outset, of course, it’s the Border Patrol. We’ve got to provide them with the personnel and resources they need to complete their mission, as difficult as it is. When you go and meet with these people, the men and women of the Border Patrol, you come away just so proud of what they try to do every day. They are a combination of border agents trying to enforce the law, social workers trying to help people with their problems, health care workers trying to help when people get hurt. Unfortunately, as we have seen, a lot of people are getting hurt in this process. That journey north is a dangerous journey. And with the cartels so involved and right there at the border, what happens in the desert, what happens on these trains, what happens in these trucks. We just saw this horrible incident of these migrants who were jammed into a semi-truck, and more of them died, I think, than any other accident of that kind, incident of that kind in our history. But this is inhumane, and this is part of what happens when you have these cartels involved in this process. 

“We also got to provide the Border Patrol with the ability to help control things at the border by finishing the border fence and putting the technology with the fence that was always intended. And by the way, the technology tends not to be very partisan around here. Democrats, Republicans alike, I believe, mostly think that we ought to have cameras, we ought to have sensors, we ought to know what’s going on at the border. But when the order came down the first day of the Biden administration to stop the wall and to end what the Trump administration had started with Congress’s approval and funding, they also said stop the technology. So in the El Paso sector, as an example, the wall is about, I don’t know, 80, 90 percent completed. Unfortunately, there are gaps in the wall where you literally have to have Border Patrol there 24 hours a day, or people just come through it, which makes their job really hard. What they want to do is at least have the wall there to slow people down, and the technology there enables them then to go and deal with situations as they occur. But only 20 percent of the technology had been completed, so you’ve got more wall than you have technology. The wall is not that useful, frankly, without the technology, in my view, I think the technology is the key, but that’s what’s happening. And by the way to the taxpayers listening tonight, which is pretty much all of us, we paid for that wall. We actually paid for the fencing to be put up. Congress appropriated the money, and then the administration stopped it. 

“So you literally see the steel beams and the pieces of concrete for the wall lying on the ground. And as one Border Patrol agent told me when I was in one of the sectors, most recently, I was in the Nogales sector, where there’s a huge gap. He said, this is really bad for morale. And our Border Patrol agents look at this stuff, and they say, we’ve already paid for this. Can’t we just finish the wall and put these fences up, the gates up to keep these openings from attracting the cartels and the drug smugglers and the people smugglers? But that’s where we are. So that’s one thing our legislation does, is to correct that problem and help stop this crisis. 

“It also says that Title 42 we talked about earlier won’t be lifted until the COVID-19 emergency is over. Again, I think it ought to be lifted when we have policies in place that makes sense, but a lot more is needed. The bill also mandates that the program the Biden administration ended, which said that as you come to ask for asylum, you should wait at the border. It’s called the Migrant Protocols. There was just an agreement with the president of Mexico and President Biden a couple of days ago about more funding for the border area, and that’s good to provide more humane living conditions. But this was working to tell people, if you want to come for asylum, go ahead and apply, and while you’re waiting for asylum, you can remain in Mexico. If you get asylum, you come across. If you don’t, you go home. What happened is a lot of people just went home. The asylum process, which we’ll get into in a minute, is kind of a complicated issue, but in other ways, it’s pretty simple. And it’s the main reason for this, which is that people know if they come to the border and they claim asylum, which most people do, they have an immediate what’s called a credible fear interview. Sometimes it’s over the telephone now partly because of COVID, and that’s a very low bar. And so people say what their issue is back home, where they feel persecuted, then they come in, and once they come in, then they are told, okay, you can go to wherever you’re going in America. Let’s say Cincinnati, my hometown, or Columbus or Chicago or Denver, wherever it is. And you need to check in with the ICE office. That’s the immigration office in the interior of the United States within 90 days. Some people do check in. Some people don’t check in. But the point is, there is now a wait of somewhere between six to eight years before your case is heard on asylum. Six to eight years. Why? Because there are 1.5 million, someone told me today 1.6 million, let’s say 1.5 million, that’s high enough. 1.5 million people waiting in line. That’s what the backlog is. 

“It just makes no sense to anybody, including, by the way, the Secretary of Homeland Security, who I’ve talked to about this. And these long waits mean that you’re there embedded in a community in America, getting to know your community. You’re joining your church, you’re sending your kids to school, you’re having children. You’re part of the community. And then you’re told after six to eight years, by the way, your asylum application is being denied because you’re an economic refugee, not an asylee. In other words, you haven’t demonstrated a fear of persecution. You have come to this country, understandably, because there’s great opportunity here. Again, we should be encouraging these people to come legally like so many other immigrants have over the years. Only about 15 percent to 20 percent of those people who apply for asylum today are getting asylum. So think about it. If you’re part of the 80 percent to 85 percent who are not going to get asylum, there’s sometimes not much of an incentive to enter into this process and go through the hearings and so on. The consequence if you don’t go through the hearings is that you are then subject to removal. However, we’re just not removing people today. 

“So this past year we had, the latest numbers we have, are that 59,000 people were deported or removed from America. About 66 percent of those people had a criminal background. But remember, this is out of a couple of hundred thousand people going through the process. So there’s a very small chance that you will ever be removed or deported even though you went through the process. You were denied asylum. You stay in the United States. And the next administration could change that, this administration could change that. But right now, this asylum process, which was created to give lawful presence to people who are unable to be in their home country because of persecution, is not being used properly. It’s being exploited by people who know that because of our system and our huge backlog, if they say that they are part of a group that’s being persecuted, they can come in, and even when they’re denied asylum, they can stay. I mean, that’s the way it’s working. 

“What we have found is that folks who come here are almost entirely focused more on the economic side. There was a survey conducted by the Migration Policy Institute recently, which, by the way, is a pro migrant institution. It found that 90 percent of the Central Americans making the journey to our southern border are coming for what? For work. They’re coming for work because they come from poor countries. They don’t have a lot of opportunity in their country. I don’t blame them. If I was a father living in Honduras and couldn’t find a job, or I was a subsistence farmer just barely making it, and I had a few kids and I wanted them to have a better life, I’d come too. But that’s not what immigration is all about. It’s a system where you come legally, yes, but if you come illegally, you’ve got to be told, you’ve got to go back and apply like everybody else. Otherwise America would be overwhelmed and is being overwhelmed and will be even more overwhelmed if Title 42 is taken away. Because there are hundreds of millions of people, maybe billions of people around the world who would love to come here to this country. We take for granted our opportunities, our freedoms, but others don’t. So we have to have a system. We have to have some sort of a border. And really that’s the question that is before us today in this body is are we going to have a system that makes sense? Or one where, again, you have a million and a half people who are waiting to have their hearing, when they have their hearing on asylum and they are denied, they still aren’t removed, so they can stay. And again, meanwhile, they’ve got family and kids and connections to the community. It’s really not fair to them. 

“A much better system would be to say, okay, apply for asylum in your country, or if you don’t feel comfortable there, apply from a third country. Then you’ll know yes or no before you come up to the border, don’t make that dangerous journey north. Don’t put yourself in the clutches of these coyotes, these human smugglers, these traffickers who are heartless. What they’re doing is they’re going down to Central America or Latin America or really all over the world now, people are coming from hundreds of countries now, and they’re saying give me money, give me $10,000 and I’ll get you to the border. And you can just walk across. And people are signing up, sometimes with their life savings and sometimes, as again, we talked about earlier, there are assaults along the way. There are all kinds of horrible stories of how women particularly are mistreated on the way up. It’s a dangerous and inhumane process. And at the end of the day, our system is pulling these people to the border. 

“The administration is now implementing a new asylum rule recently to try to deal with this problem because they realize it’s just not working. However, the new system that they’re putting in place isn’t working either. And there’s a reason for that. Their theory is we should adjudicate the cases at the border. I agree with that. I actually would rather adjudicate them outside the border in the country of origin or a third country. But another alternative is to have the adjudication be right at the border. Make the decision right there, yes or no, let people know. The problem is what they are doing right now is they are putting asylum officers at the border, making a decision, adjudicating as people come across. And if it’s a no, people are not being sent home, but rather people are being told if it’s a no, you can appeal it to the regular system. So get back in line with the 1.5 million people. So what we’re learning is that, of course people are smart, they’re talking to the asylum officer, they’re getting a yes or a no. If they’re getting a yes, that’s great. They’re getting in. That’s a small percentage. If they’re getting a no, then they just say, well, that’s fine, I’m going to appeal it to the regular system. So it really isn’t an answer to the problem. If you wanted to answer the problem, what you would have is processing centers along the border. It would be expensive because there’s so many people coming over now and so many people applying for asylum. But have a process where quickly you could adjudicate these cases and in the meantime, not have people be released into the interior, but have them stay there to find out what the outcome of the case is. 

“This pull system is bad for everybody except the smugglers. They’re the ones who profit. They’re the ones that are going to folks in places like Honduras or Ecuador or again, far flung places, places in Eastern Europe, places in Asia, and telling people, give me a bunch of money and I’ll get you in the United States. We recently had this tragedy I mentioned in San Antonio, 53 migrants were left for dead in the Texas heat in the back of a tractor trailer. They were just abandoned by their smuggler. They left them locked inside of this tractor trailer. It’s not the first time this has happened, but as I said earlier, 53 is probably the worst smuggling tragedy in our history. 

“I went to Latin America last year, met with the presidents of Mexico and Guatemala and Ecuador and Colombia. And was interesting, they all said the same thing, and it will probably surprise you to hear what they said. Some people think, well, they must enjoy this process because so many of their citizens are going to America. They can then send money back to their family and must be good for everybody. It’s not. They’re losing some of the best and brightest in their country. And these people are going through again this arduous process to get to the border. And the inhumanity of that troubles these presidents. They all told me basically the same thing, which is, why don’t you guys fix your laws and stop this pull factor? We talk about the push factor in poor countries. I mentioned Honduras earlier. That’s certainly true. And by the way, we spent over the last five years about $3.6 billion of American taxpayer money to help in the economics of the so called Northern Triangle, the Central American countries. I’m for spending money in these countries to try to help with their economy. But with the corruption, with all the issues they have, it’s very difficult to imagine those countries in a short period of time having any kind of economic opportunity that equals what we have right here in this country. So there’s going to continue to be that push. We should try to alleviate it, but it’ll continue to happen. 

“But the pull, this policy that we have is just pulling people north. So what they said to me, these presidents of these countries was, you guys have a legal immigration system where people know they can just get into your country. Why don’t you change that? Why don’t you change that? And again, it’s not just people from Mexico and Central America. It’s people from all over the world. By the way, for some of these people, the Border Patrol is increasingly concerned because they come from countries where a lot of people want to do us harm. So increasingly, we’re seeing people coming to our country who are, as an example, on the terror watch list, back in 2007 two people, six people in 2018. None in 2019. 2020, there were three. 15 in 2021, and this fiscal year, 2022, already 50 individuals on the terror watch list.  Why? They know if they come to the US border, they can get across. I’m sure this number is higher. That’s what we know, because, again, a lot of people are so called got-aways, let’s say 20 percent. And who are these people? Well, some of them are probably pretty smart individuals who know how to get away from the Border Patrol, do the distraction and sneak in. That worries me. And it worries me because we are allowing people to come into our country who we would not otherwise allow. 

“We’ve seen this increase of people coming into the country who are on the terror watch list, but we’ve also seen, again, a lot of people coming in who we just don’t know anything about because they don’t encounter the Border Patrol. We’ve seen more caravans, and we see that more migrants are on their way. Why? I think it’s because of this general pull factor, the fact that people know if they come here they’re going to be able to get in. But I think it’s also because of Title 42, because the smugglers are using that, the cartels are spreading the word. Title 42 is on its way out. Read about it in the front page of your paper, because that’s where it is, because this administration wants to end it. So they’re saying now you can go to the border and you’ll be let in under the policies like the asylum policy. And the single adults, who 48 percent of whom roughly have been turned away, 48 percent of the total by Title 42 will no longer be turned away. So I think that’s why we’re seeing this. It’s giving the coyotes, the traffickers, and the smugglers opportunity to make lots of money. By the way, that’s hurting all these countries too. If you talk to the presidents of these countries, including President Lopez Obrador of Mexico, what he’ll tell you is the cartels are taking over more and more of his country because they’re making more and more money because of this and significantly because of the drug issue we’ll talk about in a second. 

“We know that the cartels are involved in human trafficking. We know they’re involved in drug smuggling. We know they’re involved in smuggling people. I was with the Border Patrol in El Paso last year, we were out at night. We saw a group of migrants coming, and the Border Patrol was going to that location to stop them and question them. And meanwhile, we heard in the radio the drug smugglers had come across. They could see it, they knew it. They could tell by the backpacks they were wearing, I guess, and the clothes they were wearing, dark clothes, young men, that they were smuggling. But they couldn’t do anything about it because the Border Patrol were processing the migrants who had come in. So I’m watching the migrants coming in, actually talking to some of them and the Border Patrol, and meanwhile on the radio they’re saying you got to go to this other sector, to this other area to stop these drug smugglers. We can’t. We’re distracted. The processing takes some time. So the other big issue, in addition to the unlawful entry into the United States, smuggling, all the inhumanity that surrounds that, is this drug issue. 

“I have spent a lot of time working on this issue on the prevention side, so helping on treatment and recovery options and doing more on prevention. We were making some progress until unfortunately, we were hit with this pandemic. And during that time and since, drug use has gone up again. But we were making progress in part because we were helping on the demand side of the equation, but also on the supply side we were keeping some of these drugs out of the country. We did it primarily through stopping the deadliest of all, which is the fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid, from coming in through the US mail system. We passed a law called the STOP Act that kept China from poisoning our communities by sending this stuff through the mail system, which was happening. That was the primary way it was coming in. But what has happened? During the pandemic, kind of coincidental with the pandemic, where you had more people isolated, more people losing their jobs, more people turning to drugs, you had Mexico begin to take the central role in terms of fentanyl. A lot of it’s from precursors, from China. So China sends the precursors to Mexico. But Mexico is now making the fentanyl, often into pills. So Xanax or Adderall or Percocet, if you buy any drugs on the street, know that those drugs could kill you. Don’t be fooled. 

“There are so many counterfeit drugs out there now, and that is one of the preferred ways that the Mexican cartels are bringing these drugs in. Again, fentanyl is of course, the deadliest of the drugs. About two-thirds of the overdose deaths in America are occurring because of fentanyl. We now have a record level of overdose deaths every year in America. Over 100,000 last year. There’s no reason to believe that it’ll be less than that this year, based on the early data we have, sadly. In my home state of Ohio, it’s the number one killer by far. And look at what’s happened with the seizures of fentanyl. This is the fentanyl that has been seized. Here’s the projections for the rest of this year. If they continue as they are, obviously record levels. When you have this huge surge of fentanyl coming in, what happens is you have a lower cost of the drug. Supply and demand, right? So a huge supply and the demand for these drugs continues. 

“So on the streets of Columbus or Cleveland or Cincinnati or Dayton or your town, wherever it is, it’s likely that this cheap but really deadly fentanyl is something that people are being exposed to. Some people are falling prey to it, again, often thinking they’re taking another drug. There were a couple of students at Ohio State University who overdosed and died just before I gave a talk there at graduation earlier this spring, and they were taking what they thought were study drugs, apparently, Adderall. A third student lived, but was in critical condition. This is the deadliest of drugs. In 2021, we see double the fentanyl from the previous year, four times from the year before that. Again, so far this year, we are on track to match the most fentanyl seized ever. In May, just one month in May, there was enough fentanyl seized at the border to kill 200 million Americans, more than half of our population, one month. 

“So people say, well, gosh, why are you so worried about the border? Or let people come across, open border or whatever. Here’s the consequence. And again, it’s hurting Mexico too, and it’s hurting lots of other countries, but in terms of Mexico, this gives the cartels enormous power and money. And yes, ultimately, I think the most important thing to do is to reduce demand. I do. And I think, again, we’re making progress now, we had about a 20 percent reduction in 2018. We need to get back to that and this Congress took a lead on much of this, but we also have to deal with the supply side and stop this enormous surge of drugs that’s coming over and poisoning our communities. And that’s part of what’s happening on the border. A few months ago, I was in the Nogales, south of Tucson to ride with the Border Patrol and go to the port of entry there. They’re doing a very good job with what they have, but they need better equipment, and this is one thing that Congress could do. They need help, they need more resources, they need better technology. They need to be able to scan cars and trucks that are coming in, particularly for these drugs we talked about. A relatively small package of fentanyl this size can kill 1,000 people. A few specs can kill you. So it’s easy to hide it in a car or a truck. 

“We now know that less than two percent of passenger vehicles and less than 20 percent of commercial vehicles coming into the United States are scanned for these illegal drugs like fentanyl. This is just unacceptable. Congress has appropriated more funding for this. That’s good. Let’s get it moving. We should be scanning all vehicles. In my view, a smuggler with multiple pounds of fentanyl concealed in a hidden compartment might be worth hundreds, even hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. They know they have a good chance of getting across without a search, so they take the risk. It’s not just a gap in our security, it’s a gaping hole. And again, it leads to this flood of cheap fentanyl and other dangerous drugs. 

“The southern border has faced the worst unlawful crisis that we’ve ever had. Going back to the first chart, this tells the story in red. The men and women of the Customs and Border Protection that I’ve met over the years are doing the best they can. They’re doing the best at the ports of entry. They’re doing the best as Border Patrol between the ports of entry. But they need help. That’s what our legislation does is provide them the help they need to be able to respond to this crisis. We welcome legal immigration. We always should, they enrich our country. And we are a nation of immigrants and we’re proud of that. But we’re also a nation of laws. And we’re also a nation that cares about the inhumanity of the current system and the flood of cheap, deadly drugs coming through our border. 

“I urge the Biden administration to change course, to fix this broken system, to follow the law, including the law on detaining people, to reform the asylum process so it stops acting like a pull factor and is used for what it is intended for, to truly help those who are seeking asylum for the right reasons. To stop these policies that send a greenlight to the smugglers, to the cartels, to the drug traffickers, and that is causing so much human suffering along our southern border. I urge the administration to act. In the meantime, again, we’re introducing legislation. I urge my colleagues to help us with that. There’s no reason that we can’t work in a bipartisan way to deal with what everybody has to acknowledge is a huge crisis at our southern border. I yield back my time.”