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Border Crossings Down Again Amid Fight Over 'Control'

The steep decrease in illegal border crossings at the U.S.-Mexico bordered extended to a second month, with February encounters between U.S. Border Patrol officials and migrants almost matching January's numbers, a more than 40% drop from December, the Associated Press reports. The new data released by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection come at a time of intense political controversy with Republicans seeing immigration as a potent issue with voters and accusing President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of not doing enough to secure the southern border. Many fewer migrants were caught crossing between ports of entry after the administration announced a new policy under which Mexico would take back Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.

Those tense politics were on display Wednesday when U.S. Border Patrol chief Raúl Ortiz was grilled in a House Homeland Security Committee hearing over whether the agency has complete operational control of the southern border. The question was posed by committee chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.), who held up a definition of operational control crafted in 2006 that requires “the prevention of all unlawful entries.” “Based upon the definition you have, sir, up there, no,” Ortiz responded. Republicans had repeatedly posed the same question to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who has maintained the border is under control in numerous hearings. Ortiz said that while four of nine southwest border sectors have significant resources, five find themselves facing “an increase in flow and that has caused a considerable strain.” The debate over the meaning of operational control rests on The Secure Fence Act of 2006, which set a yardstick experts say was never realistic. “This language, the prevention of all unlawful entries into the United States, including terrorists, other unlawful aliens, instruments of terror, narcotics, and other contraband, I think it’s very forgiving to use the word aspirational, I mean, it’s unrealistic,” Doris Meissner, a former commissioner of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, told The Hill in February.


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