(The Center Square) – Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, met with Republican lawmakers this week to explain the nature of the problem Border Patrol is facing on a daily basis.
“I would argue that it’s the biggest surge that we’ve ever seen in the history of the Border Patrol,” Judd said during a roundtable with members of Congress, Texas landowners, and law enforcement.
The two-day trip to McAllen, Texas, was spearheaded by Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, and included several Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan said House Democrats were invited to come but declined to participate. Jordan says what he saw is a “catastrophe.”
“In all my years in Congress, this has been the most disturbing field tour that I’ve ever taken," California U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock told reporters at a roundtable.
Judd says Border Patrol is overwhelmed by a surge of 18,600 unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors, family units that comprise nearly 53,000 individuals, and 96,600 single adults in March alone.
CBP projects more than 1 million unaccompanied minors will enter the U.S. illegally this year.
During the month of March, Southwest land border encounters and apprehension totaled 172,000 illegal immigrants, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported. An additional 1,000 people per day are evading capture, CBP estimates. These numbers are up compared to February, when border agents apprehended 101,000 illegal immigrants and unaccompanied minors.
However, Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller argues the surge at the border “is not new” and that encounters have “continued to increase since April 2020.”
He added, “our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year.”
Judd disagreed, arguing, “this surge is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.”
“Even though we were making 1.5 million arrests, we were actually dealing with about 400,000 to 500,000 individual people – we were just arresting the same people over and over again,” Judd said. Most were single males from Mexico, whereas the types of people crossing today are different, he said. “Today … if we make 1.2 million arrests, we’re actually dealing with about 800,000 to 900,000 different people.”
Taking care of family units and unaccompanied minors requires a great amount of resources, including housing, food, transportation and health care, all paid for by taxpayers. Taxpayers also foot the bill for the processing of and subsequent transfer or release of the individuals into the United States.
“You could cross the border illegally one day and be in Virginia the very next day,” Judd said, referring to the “catch-and-release” program implemented by the Biden administration.
“I personally have apprehended groups from China, from Bangladesh, from Russia, from Poland, from Brazil. And these criminal organizations are allowed to go into these countries, and they’re allowed to advertise their services and make billions of dollars off of human misery. And it’s based upon our policies,” he said, referring to the Biden administration policies that reversed Trump-era policies.
Last month, President Joe Biden appointed Vice President Kamala Harris to oversee the border crisis, however, she has yet to visit the border.
Judd says the current policy of “catch-and-release” only incentivizes illegal immigration. A better alternative is to detain individuals while their immigration case is being adjudicated, he suggested, pointing to the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, known as the Remain in Mexico program, which sought to do this.
McClintock said the group of lawmakers “watched literally hundreds of illegal migrants crossing the border and turning themselves in to the Border Patrol," he said. "Groups who were in the company of children under seven had their basic biometric information taken down, and then [they were] dispatched to bus stations to continue into the United States.”
McClintock said the children are held for an average of 24 days and the situation is "getting worse by the day." Mexican cartels net roughly $500 million per month through human trafficking, he said.
“We are feeding the Mexican crime cartels," he added. "The crime cartels are taking in roughly a half a billion dollars a month through this human trafficking network."
Indiana U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz blamed “perverse incentives and lack of leadership" for the border crisis. “Perverse incentive and lack of leadership from this administration [have] created a real serious crisis at the border. And it has really escalated," she said.
“Forty percent of our Border Patrol agents are busy processing people and changing diapers," she continued. "It means that they cannot do their job protecting the border. It means that Mexican cartels are controlling the border. This is a national security and humanitarian crisis.”
Utah U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens recounted sobbing children and a young woman who was gang raped.
“We have an administration that does not have the backbone to come down here and encourage these great men and women who are doing a job but being overwhelmed right now,” Ownes said.
Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs said the situation was “horrific to see."
The White House said a new executive order will create a presidential commission composed of experts to study current practices of the Supreme Court, most notably the “membership and size” of the court itself.
The commission will hold public meetings and present a report on its findings within 180 days. According to the White House, its stated purpose is to provide "an analysis of the principal arguments in the contemporary public debate for and against Supreme Court reform.”
That raised eyebrows, though, as a thinly veiled exploration of expanding the size of the court after many Democrats called for the court’s expansion last year.
What is also called “packing the court” became a contentious issue during the 2020 presidential campaign.
Liberal Democrats have called on Biden for months to add justices to the court, which has a majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents. Biden often avoided questions about the issue on the campaign trail, but did say he is “not a fan” of adding justices.
Former President Donald Trump appointed three justices during his term, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority on the court. Those victories for the former president prompted Democrats, particularly the more liberal wing of the party, to push for appointing more supposedly left-leaning justices once a Democrat was in the White House.
“Expand the court,” U.S. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, said just days before the November elections. “Republicans do this because they don’t believe Dems have the stones to play hardball like they do. And for a long time they’ve been correct. But do not let them bully the public into thinking their bulldozing is normal but a response isn’t. There is a legal process for expansion.”
Democrats could outright expand the court and add justices, but another tactic may involve putting term limits on justices with the hopes of replacing them with Democratic nominees.
Republicans were quick to criticize Biden's commission, pointing to an overreach of executive authority.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, responded to the announcement immediately on Twitter, saying Democrats want to “close your schools, open your border, take your guns, raise your taxes, cancel your culture, pack your court,” hitting several lines of attack against the Biden administration.
“Why study something we already know? Democrats want to pack the Supreme Court,” he added.
The Republican leadership of the House Judiciary Committee, where Jordan serves as the ranking member, echoed that sentiment, saying in response, “President Biden promised he’d govern as a 'moderate.’ He lied.”
Congress has the authority to change the size of the Supreme Court, but the highest court in the land has remained at nine justices since 1869, over 150 years.
The president’s new commission will be led by two co-chairs. The first is White House Counsel and Yale Law School Professor Cristina Rodriguez, who currently serves as former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. The other co-chair is Bob Bauer, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law.
“The topics it will examine include the genesis of the reform debate; the Court’s role in the Constitutional system; the length of service and turnover of justices on the Court; the membership and size of the Court; and the Court’s case selection, rules, and practices,” the White House said in a statement. “In addition to legal and other scholars, the Commissioners include former federal judges and practitioners who have appeared before the Court, as well as advocates for the reform of democratic institutions and of the administration of justice. The expertise represented on the Commission includes constitutional law, history and political science.”