Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 9.16.22
Border Problems Continue
When asked recently by NBC News whether the border is secure, Vice President Kamala Harris, the Biden Administration’s “border czar,” said, "We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation."
The Vice President’s confusing syntax aside, the only answer to the question “Is the border secure?” right now must be “No.”
A secure border would not be setting records for daily encounters of illegal immigrants, but the Washington Free Beacon reported on September 15 that internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents indicate about 8,000 illegal immigrant encounters are taking place at the border each day, the highest daily number in our history.
If the border were secure, we would not hear howling when governors on the southern border send a few busloads of illegal immigrants to areas that commonly vote for the politicians that oppose fully securing the border.
Sustained high daily numbers of encounters, just the latest negative record set at the border under the Biden Administration, mock the idea that the border is anything close to secure. Border Patrol agents cannot adequately respond to the situation. The astounding numbers of illegal immigrants at the border, many of whom are eventually released into our country, also signal to others contemplating unlawful entry that they can make the attempt without having to worry about legal consequences.
An uncontrolled border also offers plenty of opportunities for criminals or other unscrupulous actors to gain. Cartels traffic people across the border with little regard for the illegal immigrants in their charge and smuggle drugs that make their way to communities across the country, including some in Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District.
Utter incompetence and mismanagement allow some of these unscrupulous actors to cash in with American taxpayer dollars.
Illegal immigrant minors who are caught crossing the border are detained and housed while the Federal Government seeks sponsors in our country to take them into custody. The government often contracts with nongovernmental organizations to provide these services, but recent arrests and indictments suggest the government cannot always find trustworthy partners.
At the beginning of September, the CEO of International Education Services, a contractor providing temporary shelter and other services for unaccompanied alien minors, was indicted by a federal grand jury on embezzlement and theft charges.
News reports on the indictment report that International Education Services received almost all its funding through federal grants. The indictment alleges that the CEO, Ruben Gallegos Jr., used grant money to pay to himself and other individuals salaries hundreds of thousands of dollars above a cap imposed by federal regulations. While the cap was $187,000, Mr. Gallegos in four separate years paid himself salaries ranging from $435,417 to $492,002. He also used grant money to lease properties from himself at excessive rates.
While the Biden Administration’s chosen leaders for DHS have created many of the problems along the border, responsibility for unaccompanied alien minors falls under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). This agency comes under the congressional oversight jurisdiction of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on which I serve.
From trips to the border and oversight work, I have noticed problems myself with how ORR vets the people it gives the minors to for care. To match these minors with family members already in the country, I found that ORR relies on common background search websites that often turn up incorrect or incomplete information, instead of a full-blown criminal background check.
To be clear, these minors should not come here illegally, but if we are going to allow them here and claim to be looking out for them, ORR should not compound the damage by potentially matching them with people who have not been properly vetted.
If in the future I were honored to serve as the Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of Energy and Commerce, I would strive to hold HHS leadership accountable on how it performs its duties at the border.
Of course, the best way to avoid problems with placing illegal immigrants is securing the border. As long as the Biden Administration avoids taking this action, it is responsible for the legal and humanitarian disaster that results.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.