House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) led 64 fellow Republicans on a visit to the besieged southern border Wednesday to amplify their call for an immediate crackdown on illegal immigration.
Speaking in Eagle Pass, Texas, Johnson told reporters the nation’s increasingly porous perimeter has empowered cartels, imperiled migrants and left the country vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.
“One thing is absolutely clear,” he said. “America is at a breaking point with record levels of illegal immigration.”
Johnson squarely blamed President Joe Biden and Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas for record-breaking rates of illegal border crossers, calling the situation a rapidly unfolding “catastrophe.”
“The situation here and in other parts of the country is truly unconscionable,” Johnson said after visiting migrant processing centers and conferring with local residents and law enforcement officials. “We would describe it as both heartbreaking and infuriating.”
Johnson and other members of the delegation stressed the central role of cartels in the border ecosystem, asserting that their human smuggling and drug importing operations were thriving.
Republicans have threatened to scuttle additional Ukraine aid if the migrant crisis went unaddressed — and Johnson appeared to reference that threat Wednesday.
“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it better begin by defending America’s national security,” he said.
Johnson stressed that millions have illegally crossed the border since Biden took office — and that his rollback of Trump-era border protections have spurred intentional chaos.
“It’s a disaster of the president’s own design,” he said, arguing that the vast majority of those crossing the border were not fleeing direct persecution or seeking legitimate political asylum.
“Under President Biden, America has laid out the welcome mat to illegal immigrants, smugglers and cartels,” Johnson said, contending that the mass entries are bolsetering sex slavery and fentanyl importation.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan also took to the podium at one point to denounce Biden and stress the gravity of the border situation.
Oblivious to the political pageantry, a migrant family with three children dashed across the Rio Grande and into the US as Jordan (R.-Ohio) made his remarks.
A Texas Highway Patrol air boat rushed to the scene and watched as the group hustle across the divide and out of sight.
GOP Rep. Tony Gonzalez, who represents Eagle Pass, warned that illegal immigration threatens the stability of the entire country, not just border towns.
“It may start here in Eagle Pass,” he said. “But it quickly reaches San Antonio. And then it quickly reaches all over the country;”
Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) told reporters that the Biden Administration was purposefully allowing the issue to fester.
“The greatest domestic threat to the national security and the safety of the American people is Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” he said.
Also Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sought to pin border dysfunction on Johnson and his allies during her daily briefing — responding to a reporter’s question about the lack of one-on-one meeting with the president since the speaker took office in October.
“You have Speaker Johnson who has been very clear about where he stands on the border — who continues with the House Republicans to make this a political issue and to move forward with political stunts and has blocked any efforts from the president to deal with the border,” Jean-Pierre said.
In response to a different question, Jean-Pierre said that Biden still has confidence in both Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and in Vice President Kamala Harris, who has led a White House effort to address the “root causes” of illegal immigration since March 2021.
“He has all confidence in her and will continue to do so,” Jean-Pierre said of Harris, who was in Las Vegas on Wednesday to visit culinary union members.
There were more than 3.2 million migrant encounters overall nationwide in fiscal year 2023, of which 2.4 million were logged at the southern border.
Observers warn that the pace of illegal immigration is only accelerating — and that December set an all-time monthly record.