Republicans said Biden wasn't doing enough on the border. New GOP-led House is demanding answers
WASHINGTON – It’s an age-old showdown between Republicans and Democrats: What do we do about the U.S-Mexico border?
Republican and Democrats sparred Wednesday during the House Judiciary Committee's first hearing into the Biden administration over how to address the increased number of migrants and how to stop the flow of fentanyl in the country.
The Committee hinted this was just the beginning as House Republicans prepare to haul Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas up to Capitol Hill.
During the hearing, Republicans highlighted a desire to return to immigration restrictions implemented under the Trump administration. At one point, they even went as far as saying Biden had intentionally caused an increase of migrants coming to the border.
"It seems deliberate, it seems premeditated, it seems intentional,” House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in his opening remarks.
Democrats focused on pushing for immigration reform, while also advocationg to bolster funding to the Department of Homeland Security to catch fentanyl smugglers.
“We all agree that our immigration system is broken—but let’s fix the problems where they are, and not where FOX News talking heads imagine them to be,” House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement.
White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement House Republicans should work with Biden to pass comprehensive immigration reform and strengthen border security instead of holding the congressional hearings.
"We hope House Republicans will work with the President on these important priorities, instead of simply holding political stunts," Sams said.
The latest on the hearing on Biden’s border policies
Who’s talking?: Three panelists are speaking at the hearing: El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, Mark Dannels, Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, and Brandon Dunn, co-founder of Forever 15 Project, an organization focused on spreading awareness about fentanyl. Dale Lynn Carruthers, County Judge of Terrell County, Texas, was also scheduled to speak but could not make it to the hearing due to extreme weather in Texas.
Biden border detractor: Dannels has been critical over the Biden administration’s immigration policies, saying that the president has not done enough to address the increase of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border.
More immigration investigations: Since Republicans have control of the House, GOP leaders have said they will continue to investigate Biden’s policies on the immigration and border security. Some GOP lawmakers have said the plan to investigate and try to impeach Mayorkas.
When’s the next hearing?: The Judiciary Committee has not said when a second hearing on the border will happen. However, the House Oversight Committee has said they will hold a hearing on the border on the Feb. 7., the same day as president's State of the Union address. The House Homeland Security Committee is also planning a hearing, which could include field hearings at the border.
Calls for impeachment against Mayorkas: Republican Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, on the day of the first Judiciary hearing on the border, filed impeachment articles against Mayorkas. Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, previously introduced articles of impeachment against the homeland security secretary.
Where Biden’s immigration policies stand now
In an effort to address the rising number of migrants coming to the U.S.-Mexico border, Biden announced in early January new policies that would create a pathway to admit up to 30,000 from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti and Cuba each month who have a sponsor and pass background checks.
But the new policy will also expel more migrants as Mexico has agreed to accept up to 30,000 migrants a month from each of the countries.
A controversial public health order, Title 42, is also still in place.
Title 42 allows the administration to rapidly expel migrants and, in some cases, suspend the right to seek asylum under U.S. law and international treaty. The policy, which was invoked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Trump administration, was put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 by migrants in holding facilities.
The Biden administration was blocked by the Supreme Court in December from lifting the order. The Supreme Court will rule on the order later this year.
Immigration was also a key topic during the president’s visit to Mexico in January, where he met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The two leaders focused on what can be done to mitigate migration and crack down on fentanyl flowing into the United States.
Biden is currently being hit on all sides for his administration’s immigration policies. Republicans think they administration is too lenient and are calling for more border security. Meanwhile, some Democrats are saying the policies are too harsh and want to see the administration focus on allowing migrants to seek asylum.
On top of that, the administration is facing a fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 45.
The two issues will be front and center with the new Congress.
Biden tried to get in front of some of the complaints lawmakers have had with the president, including his lack of visits to the U.S.-Mexico border.
In early January, Biden traveled to the border in El Paso, Texas for the first time as president to assess the increase of migrants coming to the United States’ southern border. As he visited the city where many migrants were sleeping on the streets, he met with officials who urged for help and additional resources to address the surge of migrants.
What they’re saying
Rep. Greg Casar, D-Texas, a member of the House Oversight Committee, in a call with immigration advocates said that some Republicans on the committee have embraced conspiracy theories on immigration and that Democrats are “ready to go toe-to-toe.”
“We’re ready to get to work fixing the humanitarian crisis, allowing folks to immigrate to our country in a humane, safe, orderly, and legal manner,” Casar said.
Biggs on filing impeachment articles against Mayorkas: “I have a congressional responsibility to impeach figures who are in dereliction of their duties and commit crimes."
Brandon Dunn, whose 15-year-old son died of a fentanyl overdose last summer, said that the drug affects “both sides of the political aisle.”
“This isn’t a political issue. This is an issue about the safety of our children," Dunn said.
Contributing: Candy Woodall
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden border: House Judiciary holds hearing on immigration, fentanyl