Border Patrol chief disputes DHS has ‘operational control’ over entire southern US border
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz on Wednesday said the U.S. has no “operational control” over the southern border, contradicting a position previously taken by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Majorcas.
Majorcas had previously stated in testimony before the deputies that the agency exercises operational control abroad, although he was more ambiguous in an interview, referring to the statutory definition and saying that he is trying to “reach it”. Mallorcas has often been the target of Republican criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of border security.
“Does DHS have operational control over our entire border?” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, asked Ortiz on Wednesday as part of a hearing about the situation on the US-Mexico border.
“No, sir,” Ortiz replied.
Green then showed an extract from Mallorcas claiming that his department was in control of the situation.
“Do you think Secretary Mallorcas is there?” Green asked.
Ortiz declined to say whether Majorcas was lying, saying: “About 10 years ago we used operational control as a measure of our effectiveness along the southwestern border. My new strategy is to get the edge on the mission.”
The exchange was part of Wednesday’s hearing on what Republicans have since called Mallorcas’s “border crisis.” The hearings were held in south Texas.
In his opening remarks, Ortiz highlighted the challenges his agents face with the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, telling lawmakers that his agency is facing a “crisis situation” in some areas.
“The migration flow is a challenge and in some areas a crisis,” Ortiz said.
The chief also reminded Surge September 2021 Haitians in Del Rio, Texas, calling it “chaotic”.
“We have over 20,000 people gathered in one place in a short amount of time,” he said, adding that the agents provided food and assistance, and noting that he remains proud of the mounted patrol, which came under scrutiny.
“I accepted and continue to bear full responsibility for the actions taken,” he added.
In January, the administration launched a new process that allows migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti to apply to enter the US. This process was previously for Venezuelans. Those who do not apply may be returned under the Covid-era border restriction known as Section 42.
Since the process has been implemented, meetings on the US-Mexico border fell to the lowest monthly level since February 2021 and remained lower last month.
Democrats from the House Homeland Security Committee did not attend Wednesday’s hearing in Texas. “Unfortunately, it has become clear that the Republicans planned from the outset to politicize this event, breaking with the Committee’s proud bipartisan history,” senior Committee member Benny Thompson said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday. White House spokesman Ian Sams also accused the Republicans of “guerrilla play on the border” and asked them to “be honest with (Ortiz) why they want to cut funding needed to fight fentanyl trafficking, stop illegal border crossings, and do other things.” important law enforcement efforts at the border.”
Republicans have taken advantage of Majorcas’ previous comments indicating that the agency is exercising operational control abroad, although the secretary recently explained the difficulties in doing so.
Majorcas told CNN’s Chris Wallace last month that his goal is to “achieve operational control” of the border.
Asked by Wallace about what border security means and whether that means people are not crossing the border illegally, Mallorcas said: “Of course not. By these standards, the border has never been safe, right?
When asked by what standards the border is safe, Mallorcas replied: “There is no single definition for this. If you look at the legal definition, the literal interpretation of the legal language, if one person successfully evades law enforcement at the border, then we have violated border security.”