The United States does not have total operational control of its border with Mexico, according to testimony from Border Patrol chief Raúl Ortiz.
Ortiz was asked by House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green of Tennessee if the agency’s current operation met the definition of operational control crafted in 2006. The definition, which Green displayed on a poster, includes being able to prevent “all unlawful entries” into the country.
“Based upon the definition you have, sir, up there, no,” said Ortiz on March 15.
“We don’t have operational control?” Green asked.
“No sir,” Ortiz said.
As part of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, Congress defined operational control as “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics, and other contraband.” The act thereby requires the border to be 100 percent sealed for the government to acknowledge it has operational control.
Green also played Ortiz a clip of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifying in 2022 that the agency did have operational control of the border.
House Republicans have called for Mayorkas’s resignation or impeachment because of his failure to meet his constitutional duties, including securing the nation’s borders.
Ortiz’s testimony is part of the House Homeland Security Committee’s inquiry into “the direct link between President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ reckless border policies and the unprecedented crisis at our Southwest border,” per Fox News.
The hearing, which was boycotted by Democrats, was held in McAllen, Texas.
Ortiz told the committee that the current wave of illegal immigration “represents challenges, and in some areas, a crisis situation.”
“Now, unlike in previous surges, we are seeing traffic including large groups, spread across multiple locations, instead of just one or two specific sectors,” Ortiz said, per Roll Call. “This places tremendous strain on Border Patrol resources and our operational posture.”
The Border Patrol Chief stressed the need for additional agents to address the problems currently posed by mass illegal immigration.
“Back in 2012, I had 21,370 Border Patrol agents. Right now, I have 19,016. My requirement is 22,000 Border Patrol agents. Until I can get there, I’m going to require assistance from other agencies,” testified Ortiz. “But right now, for me, my priority is doing everything I can to add more personnel to my ranks, so we can make sure that Border Patrol agents are out there doing that job.”
Encounters with people attempting to illegally enter the U.S. from Mexico have skyrocketed since President Joe Biden took office in 2020. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 4.5 million encounters at the Southwest land border during the first three years of Biden’s administration.
At the March 15 hearing, Ortiz testified as many as 200,000 untracked migrants have been spotted by border patrol agents and surveillance equipment at the southern border – bringing the “gotaway” totals to 1.5 million.