Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee are accusing their Democratic counterparts of ignoring the crisis at the southern border, claiming they’re failing to address border security and the environmental impacts of the surge in illegal immigration.
Republicans are in the minority on the committee, and they were incensed this week when Democrats held a markup of a bill to tackle climate change — a move they said ignored the raging border crisis. Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, told Fox News Digital that Democrats had not held a hearing of the full committee (rather than a subcommittee) dedicated to border security.
“Chairman [Bennie] Thompson has failed to convene a hearing despite the ongoing crisis. So instead of doing that, what they chose to do, Democrats chose to have a hearing about climate impacts at the border,” he said.
“There’s no other hearings scheduled for Homeland Security. Not a single one, and so they will go this entire two-year period when we have the worst crisis at our southern border in the history of this country without actually having a hearing on it. That’s the legacy the Democrats will leave,” he said.
A Democratic committee aide pushed back, telling Fox News Digital that there had been four full committee hearings since 2021 with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, where members focused on the border. The staffer also noted that that’s in addition to hearings held by the border security subcommittee and member briefings.
Thompson, in his opening statement, said the bill would “help DHS — which includes the U.S. Coast Guard, FEMA, and Customs and Border Protection — benefit from federal research findings regarding climate change driven impacts that may have homeland security implications.”
Pfluger was not the only member angered at what Republicans perceived as a focus on climate change rather than the border crisis, with Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., describing the markup as “asinine.”
“We’re not talking about securing the border, we’re not talking about doing what we can to protect the border communities, we’re not talking about the $20 billion that the immigrants who have come across over this administration is costing the taxpayers of the government. Instead, we’re talking about a climate change bill,” Guest said. “We need to be focused on our primary mission.”
“We can’t ask [DHS] to deal with cybersecurity, to deal with disaster response, to deal with securing the border, and then at the same time put another unnecessary federal regulation on this agency. That, to me, is asinine,” Guest said. “Our primary mission is securing the people of this country.”
Ranking Member John Katko, R-N.Y, was similarly critical of the move, saying that DHS should not redirect funds given the range of challenges it faces — including at the border.
“The Committee will also consider legislation today aimed at redirecting taxpayer dollars allocated for homeland security research and development towards the Biden administration’s climate goals,” he said in his opening statement. “Unfortunately, with the litany of security crises facing the homeland from relentless cyber threats, a wide open southwest border, and resurgent terrorist groups, I do not believe that critical DHS research and development efforts should be redirected for this purpose.”
There have been more than two million migrant encounters this fiscal year, with border towns and communities overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of the migrant surge. Republicans have dismissed the Biden administration’s claim the border is “secure” and have blamed a rollback of Trump-era border policies and an increase of “catch-and-release.” The Biden administration is blaming “root causes” like violence and poverty in Central America, as well as the Trump administration for rolling back legal asylum pathways.
While Pfluger told Fox that he is concerned about identifying the reason for the migrant surge, as well as security concerns of terrorists and criminals coming across, he is also concerned about the environmental impact of the crisis — and introduced an amendment that would require assessment of the “environmental impacts on private and public land along the southwest border by aliens unlawfully present in the United States.”
That amendment would look at whether illegal immigrants have threatened wildlife, damaged agriculture and the costs associated with the damage.
Pfluger said he had seen the environmental damage caused by the Haitian migrant crisis in Del Rio last year and has been told by farmers about what they are facing on a daily basis.
“Not only are the people in Del Rio and other poor towns being affected, but it’s also the ranchers and the farmers who have shared story after story after story with me to include their own personal experiences with destruction of property, the cutting of fences, trash, burning of buildings and in some cases…deceased bodies that were being left behind as a result of this destruction.”
He said his amendment would have forced the federal government to get involved on this aspect of the crisis.
“It basically would have said that instead of climate change, let’s look at the environment, the environment being the physical land, the land along the southwest border. And let’s look at that as a place where 4.2 million illegal immigrants have crossed and have literally littered it. And instead of Texans being responsible for this or other places being responsible…the federal government is in the game on this,” Pfluger said.
The amendment did pass through the committee, but only after it was heavily amended.
The updated language looks at environmental damage “that may relate to border security operations and infrastructure at the northern and southern borders of the United States, and within each border region, as may relate to private and public lands, agricultural producing lands, sacred sites, wildlife habitats, other environmentally sensitive areas, and migration activity.”