By Allan Stein
HEREFORD, Ariz.—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the Biden administration must be held accountable for allowing a worsening fentanyl crisis that is killing 300 Americans daily—the equivalent of an airliner crash every day.
In his first congressional tour of Arizona’s southern border on Feb. 16, McCarthy said it was his sixth visit to the U.S.-Mexico border as a Republican legislator—and it won’t be his last.
And while Republicans have been in control of the House for less than two months, McCarthy said the party has done more to address the fentanyl crisis and illegal immigration than the Biden administration has done in the past two years.
“I promise you this: the new majority in Congress is going to fight to fix this problem. No longer will the Democrats be able to ignore the issue and act like it’s not happening. We will have hearings on the border,” McCarthy said at a press conference at the border wall located within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson Sector in Cochise County, Arizona.
The congressional delegation included representatives Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), Jen Kiggans (R-Va.), and Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.).
All four freshmen legislators represent districts impacted by the fentanyl crisis.
“I’ve been saying for some time now that this is no longer a border or state issue. Every state has become a border state with the fentanyl crisis. It’s impacting in different ways,” Ciscomani said.
McCarthy said Biden’s failed border policy enables the Sinaloa drug cartel to grow and prosper, sending thousands dressed in camouflage across the border hauling backpacks filled with lethal fentanyl.
The cartel is arguably the county’s largest employer of United States citizens hired to smuggle drugs and people across the border, he said.
“Why has this region gone from 66,000 people coming across to 250,000? Why does everybody wear camouflage outfits and rugs on their feet to avoid detection? Why are we catching so much fentanyl? The only thing that’s changed was the administration and the administration policies,” McCarthy said.
“Why is that happening? On the day President Biden was sworn in—when you look at the gaps in the wall—why are they there? Why are these lights not working? Because we’ve got a new president [who] said to stop it. We paid for the metal to go up, but it’s stored far away.”
Cochise County Sheriff’s Commander Robert Watkins said many residents now suffer from border fatigue.
“People in border communities are tired. Everyone here has [post traumatic stress disorder] from the smugglers driving through their communities at 100 miles an hour. That’s not an overstatement. Something needs to happen.”
Watkins told The Epoch Times that the cartels reach out to prospective American citizens with offers of cash using popular social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
In some cases, it’s possible to make $12,000 in six hours smuggling people into the country, Watkins said.
“We have 1,500 [illegal] transactions occurring every month. Other than the United States government, that’s the biggest employer in Cochise County.”
He said that social media companies are aware of the criminal activity but refuse to do anything about it.
“We have a fundamental problem. But the problem is created by this administration,” McCarthy said.
Meeting Local Leaders
Earlier in the day, the delegation discussed the border crisis with county mayors and law enforcement before receiving aerial and ground tours of the border wall.
“Why am I here? Not only to support my colleagues,” Chavez-DeRemer said. “We are the solution makers in Washington, D.C., now.”
As the former mayor of Happy Valley, Oregon, for eight years, Chavez-DeRemer said local officials had lost hope over the fentanyl crisis, which saw her community flooded with enough fentanyl to kill 4.5 million people—more than the population of Oregon.
“If you could have heard their voices. They’re shaking. They’ve lost hope. Please, don’t give up on us,” Chavez-DeRemer said. “We’re here to make a difference.”
Kiggans said the Biden administration is “not focused on strength” concerning the border and fentanyl crises.
“It’s focused on weakness. And our enemies are watching. I’m worried that our enemies do not fear us anymore. We see a weak border inviting illegal immigrants to come across—and it’s putting our families at risk.”
“They’re not getting the help they need from the Biden administration. The policies of the Biden administration have invited this crisis,” Van Orden said.
Van Orden said there were 4.6 million apprehensions since Biden took office in January 2021 and 1.2 million “got-aways”—nearly 6 million illegal entries.
“That is the entire population of Wisconsin interdicted or entering the country illegally since Joe Biden took office. It’s unsustainable, and it’s unacceptable,” Van Orden said.
Fourth-generation rancher John Ladd provided the meeting space for the congressional delegation. The ranch has been in his family for 120 years, spanning 16,000 acres and 10.5 miles along the border wall.
“The issue is that for the last 30 years, our property rights have been taken away because of illegal immigration,” Ladd told The Epoch Times.
Ladd said as many as 14 bodies of illegal migrants have turned up on his property, though he has no plans to quit despite the dangers of ranching.
“I haven’t given up. It’s the best chance we have to control the border,” Ladd said. “It’s a national security breach.”
“America understands it. But they’d better wake up and get behind this group of congressmen. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
McCarthy vowed bipartisan congressional hearings and legislation to resolve the border and fentanyl crises.
“The saddest part about all of this is the Mexican government doesn’t know which citizens are leaving the country. The American government does not know who is coming into our country,” McCarthy said.
“But there is one entity that knows both—the Sinaloa Cartel. They know who’s coming across and who’s entering. They also know what’s in the backpacks—the drugs that kill Americans.”