Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer took aim Tuesday at what he said was "propaganda" from the Biden administration over its claim that it is working to secure the border, while the White House shot back on who is to blame for the crisis -- telling Republicans to "look in the mirror."
"Administration officials continue to say they are creating a ‘safe and orderly, humane’ immigration system. But reality contradicts this propaganda," Comer said.
Comer made his remarks at a committee hearing on the crisis at the southern border, which has seen record numbers of migrant encounters since Biden took office -- with more than 2.3 million encounters in FY 22 alone, and more than 251,000 encounters in December.
Republicans have sought to blame the Biden administration’s quick reversal of Trump-era policies for the crisis. The administration, meanwhile, has said it is working to open up asylum avenues that were shut during the Trump administration -- and has been ramping up calls for Republicans to back an immigration reform bill introduced on Day One, and also to accede to border funding requests. Republicans have rejected that bill in part due to its inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S.
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On Tuesday, the White House attempted to increase that pressure on Republicans, and pointed to initial signs that border measures introduced in January had been followed by a decrease in encounters at the border.
"It is clear that House Republicans are more interested in staging political stunts than on rolling up their sleeves to work with President Biden and Democrats in Congress on legislation to strengthen border security and fix our immigration system that has needed repair for decades," White House Oversight Spokesperson Ian Sams said in a memo.
Sams said Republicans "need to look in the mirror" and accused Republicans of blocking border security funding and failing to oppose a lawsuit by 20 Republican states targeting the new border measures introduced in January.
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"President Biden continues to focus on addressing the issues that impact Americans’ lives, including strengthening border security, enacting a safer and more orderly migration system, and pushing to pass comprehensive immigration reform that finally, after decades, repairs our immigration system," he said. "House Republicans should join the President in pursuing real solutions, not political stunts – and they should answer for their opposition to funding for border security and their refusal to stand up to Republican officials trying to create more unlawful border crossings."
But in the hearing, Comer pushed back, putting the blame squarely on the administration. He pointed to the more than 300,000 "gotaways" believed to have escaped Border Patrol agents so far this fiscal year and the thousands encountered by agents every day.
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"President Biden and his administration have created the worst border crisis in American history," he said, before later adding: "Starting on his first day in office, President Biden signal to the world our borders were open, opened to criminals, human traffickers and drug traffickers."
After pointing to the rollback of Trump-era interior immigration enforcement and the end to policies such as border wall construction and the Migrant Protection Protocols, Comer rejected the idea that the Biden administration’s plans were working.
"Conditions at the border are dangerous, chaotic and inhumane. Fiscal year 2022 set records for the number of arrests of illegal border crossers, the number of migrants who died making the journey, the number of dangerous narcotics seized, and even the number of suspected terrorists arrested trying to illegally cross the southern border," he said.
"And given over half a million people have evaded apprehension entirely, the national security risks are extremely high. This administration must do more to protect our southern border. They must do more to protect the American people."