Chairwoman McSally Questions New CBP Commissioner on National Guard Deployment, Closing Immigration Loopholes & other Border Security Priorities
WASHINGTON –U.S. Representative Martha McSally today questioned the newly sworn-in U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner McAleenan on the status and future of border security priorities, including the deployment of National Guard troops to the southwest border and closing immigration loopholes that are a magnet for illicit migration.
Congresswoman McSally’s opening statement highlighted that, since January 2018, almost 22,000 unaccompanied minors and 40,000 families arrived at the border under these policies that enrich the cartels.
“This caravan has gotten a lot of attention, there is a large group of people coming to our border, many who plan to exploit our loopholes—but this has been happening every single day in the communities along the border…the insanity is that the message to any transnational criminal organization is just to get to the border, look for someone, turn yourself in, say the right words, then you can just disappear into the interior of the United States with a very small percentage showing up for their court date in the future, correct?” the Congresswoman asked Commissioner McAleenan.
“That is correct, and that is exactly right. Transnational criminal organizations are preying on these individuals, charging them $5,000-$10,000 to smuggle them to the border and allow them to use their area to cross” answered Commissioner McAleenan.
The Congresswoman also focused on the value of the National Guard on the border as a “force multiplier” for CBP.
“I fully support the deployment of the national guard to the border. As the representative of a border community myself, I personally think that it is taking Washington too long to get something done about securing our border,” said the Congresswoman in her second round of questioning. “Can you tell me about the status of the deployment, what our troops are doing, and will we see additional deployments?”
“CBP very much appreciates the opportunity to work with the National Guard again. We have 600 on the ground already, doing things like surveillance, operational support, intelligence analysis, and maintaining access roads and infrastructure. So they are going to extend our capability in a number of different areas,” answered Commissioner McAleenan in part.
“This frees up border patrol agents to be able to patrol the border and intercept illegal activity while the guardsmen act within their core competencies in the military to provide support functions. I’m also concerned about having the agents we do have fully focused on the border. There have been media reports that at certain stations only 12% of agents are patrolling the border. That’s not adequate, we need to make sure that highly trained agents are out there patrolling the border and what else can we do to partner with you to free them up to do that job?”
In his answer, Commissioner McAleenan highlighted how closing legal loopholes would reduce the time needed to process family units and minors, putting more agents back into the field.
Congresswoman McSally also emphasized the need to prioritize and expedite the modernization of the outdated and overworked Douglas Port of Entry. “Land ports of entry are critical for both economic opportunity and increasing cross-border commerce which will provide economic development and jobs in America, but also for security. We’ve seen the vast majority of drugs are coming through the ports of entry,” Congresswoman McSally stated. “These ports of entry are part of border security, but they are also apart of economic development and opportunity and many of them are woefully inadequate, like the Douglas Port of Entry in my district. Built in 1933, it needs to be replaced, and we’ve been advocating for that since I came here. Have you been to the Douglas Port of Entry and can you speak to the importance of updating ports like this for border security, economic development, and counterterrorism?”
The Commissioner agreed, saying, “I have been to the Douglas Port of Entry many times—a challenging facility to say the least given the growth in traffic since the 1930s. It wasn’t designed for where we are today.” The Commissioner also told the Congresswoman that the Douglas Port of Entry was “a top ten priority” and he believes it will be in Fiscal Year 2019 or Fiscal Year 2020. Click HERE or below to watch the full exchange.
Congresswoman McSally also reiterated her firm support in Congress to provide funding for a wall and expressed eagerness for a concrete and definitive timeline for the wall’s completion. Click HERE or below to watch her full opening statement below.