As the representative for Ohio’s Fifth District in Congress, I have visited and inspected our nation’s southern border four times. I take these opportunities because I believe the federal government has a duty and responsibility to protect and secure our nation’s borders.
That is why I traveled to the small southern border town of Eagle Pass, Texas, this month. What I witnessed and heard from Border Patrol agents while there was alarming and unsustainable.
In the month of December, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported apprehending a record shattering 302,000 illegal migrants crossing the southern border. And over the last year, CBP seized over 23,000 pounds of illicit fentanyl.
The Del Rio sector we visited has 242 miles of border with Mexico. Due to the recent surge of illegal migrants, Border Patrol was only able to patrol a fraction of the sector. Many of these Border Patrol agents are stretched thin and are bogged down in processing paperwork, which keep them from patrolling our southern border. Even Border Patrol agents around the country are being forced to process paperwork online, which has also kept them from performing their duties on our northern border.
We also visited a facility that held illegal migrants and is intended to hold 1,000 people. However, during the recent surge, it held 6,000 people. How can the Border Patrol handle these numbers?
CBP also reported to us that Mexican cartels are raking in $32 million a week. These cartels are simply exploiting migrants. And as illegal migrants traverse their way to our southern border, cartels are committing murder, trafficking children and raping women.
There are many who claim only southern border states and communities should be concerned about what goes on at the border – that is just flat out wrong. This is a nationwide crisis.
Look no further than New York City – of all places – to see the ramifications of misguided southern border policy.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently cited the migrant crisis as the reason behind recent budget cuts, including freezing the hiring of New York Police Department officers.
The people of New York City have a right to be outraged about budget cuts they believe will impact the safety and well-being of their communities. But they really should be directing their anger toward those who are responsible for securing our borders.
More specifically, their ire should be aimed at President Joe Biden and his administration – including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – for allowing chaos to reign at our southern border. Under their watch, the southern border has become a haven for drug cartels and bad actors who exploit migrants and lax border policies.
Enough. We need to secure the southern border to protect our nation and people. In Congress, I have been working to ensure our authorities and Border Patrol agents receive the support needed to secure our borders and keep our communities safe.
Last year, I supported the U.S. House approved Secure the Border Act, which is the strongest border security bill advanced in decades. Among its numerous provisions, this bill would increase the number of Border Patrol agents, deploy new and additional technology to our nation’s borders, and resume physical barrier construction along the southern border.
We also must crack down on the trafficking of drugs – like fentanyl – coming across our borders. In just one year, fentanyl poisonings claimed the lives of 4,137 Ohioans and over 73,000 Americans.
For years, fentanyl analogs have been temporarily set as a Schedule I narcotic. If this were to expire, fentanyl-related substances could become street legal and drug cartels would exploit this crisis further by smuggling deadlier versions of these drugs into the United States.
That is why I worked with my colleague, Rep. Morgan Griffith (VA-09), on the HALT Fentanyl Act – passed by the U.S. House with broad bipartisan support – to make fentanyl-related substances a permanent Schedule I narcotic. This would ensure more tools are granted to authorities to get deadly fentanyl analogs off the streets. I am proud this bill will not impede critical research into the use of fentanyl-related substances and that it will not restrict access to fentanyl for those who rely on it for medicinal purposes.
The U.S. Senate must now pass both bills and send them to the president’s desk to be signed into law. If the president vetoes either bill, it will send a clear message about where he stands on protecting and defending our nation’s borders.
Securing our borders and strengthening policies already on the books is a necessary and significant step towards restoring safety to our communities and country. For the safety and well-being of all American communities, President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas must focus their attention and resources on securing the southern border. To do otherwise would be dereliction of duty.
As the representative for Ohio’s Fifth District in Congress, I remain committed to this endeavor and will continue pressing for commonsense policies that put our people and nation first.
Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) respresents Ohio’s Fifth District in the U.S. Congress.