House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan on Thursday took aim at Democrats for failing to attend an in-person hearing on the border crisis in Yuma, Arizona, as Republicans heard from witnesses about the devastating impact the crisis has had on their communities.
“It’s a shame that not one Democrat member of Congress would join us on this trip despite having weeks of advance notice,” Jordan said in Yuma. “It’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising.”
Republicans held the hearing in the besieged community with local officials and the CEO of a local hospital that had spent millions on migrant care, as part of the GOP pledge to hold hearings at the border.
But when the hearing was announced last week, Democrats dismissed the move as a “stunt” and said they had not been consulted.
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“Instead of focusing on real solutions to a complicated problem, Judiciary Republicans will once again not hear from any federal government witnesses at their hearing, further cementing this hearing as a brazen act of political grandstanding,” ranking member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said in a statement. “As a result, Democrats, who have been to the border regularly the last few years, will not attend next week’s performative hearing.”
Jordan denied that, saying they had been given weeks of notice. He also rejected the claim that the hearing is a “stunt.”
“I would argue it’s not a stunt. My guess is our witnesses wouldn’t call it a stunt. What we’ve learned today from them, what we’ve seen last night on the border,” he said.
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told Fox News in Arizona that the decision not to attend was a “message of disrespect” to the American people.
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The Republicans viewed the unfinished border wall, of which construction mostly stopped during the Biden administration, and visited the Yuma Regional Medical Center. Officials there said they have delivered over $26 million in uncompensated care to migrants in a 12-month period – enough to support the salary and benefits of 212 bedside nurses.
“It is an unsustainable model to have a hospital like ours bear the entire burden of paying for migrant health care. No business or service can survive on-going large-scale expense without any offsetting revenue,” Dr. Robert Trenschel said.
Other witnesses included Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot and Jonathan Lines, a county supervisor. Wilmot testified that Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal migrants in the area have gone up from 40 a day to over 1,000 a day in the space of two years, and that the county has had to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to lease porta johns to stop migrants defecating in crops.
His county has spent $323,000 in FY 2022 on booking costs for illegal immigrants who have committed state crimes, including sexual exploitation of minors, narcotics charges, assaults, kidnapping, burglary and theft cases.
“Our southern border, against all public comfort statements out of Washington D.C., is in the worst shape I have ever seen in my career,” he said in written testimony. “When one looks at Public Safety, National Security, and Humanitarian, our southern border can only be described as the largest crime scene in the country.”
The border saw over 1.7 million encounters in FY 2021 and more than 2.3 million in FY 2022. Numbers are on track to outpace those numbers in FY 2023, although the Biden administration has pointed to a sharp drop between December and January as proof that border measures announced at the beginning of the year – including a humanitarian parole program that allows 30,000 migrants in a month – are now working.
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The Biden administration has blamed Republicans for failing to fund border security and for not going along with an immigration reform bill the administration introduced on its first day in office. Biden reiterated those calls for immigration reform, including a pathway for citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, at his State of the Union.
Jordan on Thursday dismissed the proposal as a “massive amnesty package” and put the blame for the crisis on “reckless” policies by President Biden.
“On day one, day one, January 20th, 2021. Joe Biden said: ‘We’re not going to build a wall anymore. We’re not going to keep the Remain in Mexico policy and we’re not going to deport any illegal migrants who come in for an immigration violation,’” he said.
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Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., repeated Republican accusations that Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has not been enforcing the laws on the books – something for which some Republicans, including Biggs, have cited as grounds for impeachment.
“If this administration refuses to enforce existing laws, why would anyone trust it to enforce future laws?” he asked. “But this won’t stop us from trying. That’s that’s why we’re here today. But I’m afraid that this is going to get worse until the American people demand that these policies be reversed.”
“History is screaming this warning at us – countries that cannot or will not enforce their borders simply aren’t around very long,” he said.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.