The U.S. House Homeland Security Committee held a field hearing in McAllen, Texas, on border security, where U.S. Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz admitted the U.S. does not have operational control of the southwest border.

Ortiz’ statement contradicts U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who previously told Congress that the U.S. does have operational control of the southwest border.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-TN), chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, held up the definition of operational control, which stated that “the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terrorism, narcotics and other contraband.” Green asked Ortiz if this criteria had been met.

“Based upon the definition you have, sir, no,” said Ortiz.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw and Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe also testified before the committee, explaining the situation on the ground.

“An unsecured border is a problem––not just a federal problem. It becomes a local problem,” said McCraw.

McCraw told the committee that Texas has been preparing for a mass migration disaster that takes U.S. Border Patrol off the lines since 2014, and while Texas was preparing for a “failed state scenario, a catastrophic disaster scenario” ahead of the Biden administration taking office, “what we got was a federal policy disaster that incentivized illegal migration instead of criminalizing it.”

He highlighted how the cartels have exploited the crisis and said that in effect, the cartels are terrorist organizations operating along both the southwest border and the interior of the state.

“It becomes a statewide issue,” said McCraw, since the cartels collaborate with gangs and individuals further inside the country.

However, “the impact is always felt first and foremost at the local level,” said McCraw.

Sheriff Brad Coe testified to this fact as Kinney County has been inundated with smuggling activity due to its location between two legal ports of entry.

“We’re under siege by illegal aliens and smugglers coming to the county trying to get to destinations within the United States,” said Coe. “[We] are averaging between 160 and 180 people per night that are going through the county unchallenged. That comes out to roughly 60,000 people entering through my county this year.”

Resources are stretched beyond what Kinney County can handle as the smugglers careen through the county in dangerous high-speed pursuits with law enforcement. Coe explained that the county only has one EMS crew on duty, which can cause a deadly backlog:

We had an incident last year. We had a rollover. EMS shows up, our only crew shows up there about 20 miles south of town. One of our locals in town suffers a heart attack. He didn’t make it. Would he have made it had EMS been able to get to him in time?

He says they will never know.

“I have to fight tooth and toenail to get what I have to protect my ranchers,” said Coe.

That’s all we have. We had a movie industry: Lonesome Dove, the Alamo, on and on. About 150 movies were made in Kinney County during the lifespan of Alamo village––that has gone away. The sheep and goat industry––we reigned supreme in the world with our sheep and goat industry––that has gone away. All we have now is our hunters. That’s all we have to support the county. We have one grocery store, one gas station, and 3,200 people. If I lose any of that, I lose the whole county, and I will go to my grave fighting for this––to keep my county as safe as I can.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Wednesday that “CBP total encounters in February 2023 were 212,266, up approximately 2% from 208,511 in January 2023.”

As the open border policies of the Biden administration continue inciting illegal border crossings, with migrants literally rushing ports of entry in some cases, Texans are calling on state leadership to fill the gaps.

The Texas House has introduced several pieces of border security legislation, which will be debated in the coming weeks, but many Texans are still calling on Gov. Greg Abbott to utilize his constitutional powers to repel the invasion.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.