Homeland Dems booked travel, called witnesses before pulling out of border hearing, Republicans say
Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee said they would attend Wednesday morning’s in-person field hearing at the southern border — even going so far as to book their travel and call a witness — before pulling out of the hearing earlier this week, a GOP spokesperson tells Fox News.
The committee is holding a field hearing on the ongoing crisis at the southern border in McAllen, Texas on Wednesday, with witnesses including Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz.
Democrats earlier this week pulled out of the hearing “after careful consideration” and said that it had “become clear that Republicans planned to politicize this event from the start, breaking with the Committee’s proud history of bipartisanship.”
“Instead of a fact-finding mission to develop better border security and immigration policies, Republicans are traveling to the border to attack the Administration and try to score political points with their extreme rhetoric – despite having voted against the resources border personnel need,” Ranking Member Bennie Thompson said in a statement. “Committee Democrats are in regular contact with Department leadership and stakeholders on the ground and will be taking substantive site visits to the border – including as soon as this week.”
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U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., accused Republicans of having “planned to politicize this event from the start.” (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
But a spokesperson for the Republican majority on Wednesday said that, before that announcement, Democrats had said they would be in attendance, booked their travel and had even called their own minority witness who is still set to testify. That witness is Steven Cagan, assistant director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“The half-baked argument that Homeland Democrats didn’t confirm their attendance is undermined by the very fact they invited a witness, who is confirmed on our first panel, and also made their travel arrangements,” the spokesperson said. “This move from the Democrats only screams partisan games and shows that they are in fact the ones making this political.”
The spokesperson accused the Democrats of having “chosen to bail on Chief Ortiz and the border communities who continue to be crushed by this crisis.”
“Democrats can try to ignore this crisis all they want but that won’t change the devastating reality,” they said.
A spokesperson for the Democrats on the committee noted the decision not to attend was made this week, and that travel arrangements are frequently changing and made in advance. The aide also said that Democrats had held multiple hearings last year on issues including immigration, antisemitism and domestic terrorism and that Republicans did not attend or join remotely.
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The hearing is being held “to examine the direct link between President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas’ reckless border policies and the unprecedented crisis at our Southwest border” and is one of a number of hearings and visits being held at the border itself after Republicans have promised to hold in-person border hearings.
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Republicans on the committee recently held a “boot camp” in El Paso, Texas to help inform lawmakers about the crisis at the border and to shape future legislation.
Border crossings have skyrocketed under the Biden administration, with more than 1.7 million migrant crossings in FY 2021 and 2.3 million in FY 2022. FY 2023 is on track to outpace those numbers, although the Biden administration has pointed to a recent drop between December and January numbers as signs that measures unveiled at the beginning of the year are working.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifies before a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland” on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2022. (REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)
Republicans have blamed the ongoing crisis on the Biden administration’s policies, which include rolling back Trump-era border enforcement and significantly narrowing interior enforcement. The administration has blamed Republicans for failing to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill and for not voting to approve border funding requests from the administration.
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The controversy echoes a similar spat last month when the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing in-person in Yuma, Arizona only for Democrats to also pull out of that one as well — decrying it as a stunt. Democrats on that committee also claimed that they had not been consulted on the hearing — a claim that Republicans said was false.