“We desperately need Title 42 to fight this drug epidemic. It’s a tool that would quite literally save American lives in every state in the union immediately. […] How much longer will we allow our immigration system to be manipulated by a massive, transnational criminal alliance between the Chinese Communists and billion-dollar criminal cartels?”
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today spoke on the Senate floor about the national security and humanitarian crisis he witnessed at the southern border this past weekend and warned that eliminating Title 42 will exacerbate the record-breaking crisis. Hagerty also called for unanimous consent to pass his legislation that would add drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 authority, thereby giving Border Patrol the tools to quickly remove illegal border crossers and use Title 42 to combat the drug overdose epidemic in America after more than 100,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, many from fentanyl coming across our southern border. The motion was blocked by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Senator Hagerty’s remarks and the debate exchange may be found here. Text of his remarks is below.
Senator Hagerty: Thank you, Madam President.
I am here today to discuss what I saw this past weekend, when I took a trip to our southern border in Texas. I led a delegation of eight sheriffs and mayors from my home state of Tennessee. We went to see what’s happening, what the effects of the border crisis is, and to hear from them, and allow the border agents to hear from them the effects of the border crisis in our own communities in Tennessee. Our mayors and sheriffs are seeing record drug overdoses, gang violence, and other forms of criminal activity right there in Tennessee.
We learned that what’s really happening at our border is quite simple. Well-financed, operationally sophisticated drug cartels—with the help of the Chinese Communist Party—are exploiting our immigration policies and human economic desires—to make billions of dollars from drug and human trafficking.
Ignored by the Biden Administration and the corporate media, this increasingly powerful criminal enterprise is expanding further into American communities.
Our trip revealed two key insights. First, under Biden policies, this national security crisis is unmanageable. Second—and paradoxically—this crisis is well within the federal government’s ability to fix. My central takeaway was this—if every American saw what we saw and heard, this would end. America wouldn’t tolerate this. It’s a crisis.
Here’s the cartels’ business model: fentanyl ingredients are shipped from China to Mexico. In Mexico, the cartels turn these chemicals into astonishingly potent drugs bound for the United States. Last year, the fentanyl seized at the border was more than enough to kill every American—and that’s just what we caught. Think about what’s not been caught. Think about what’s getting through.
The cartels control the entire Mexican side of the U.S. border, and each migrant must pay thousands of dollars for safe passage to these cartels—often, they have to pay through subsequent indentured servitude. Many young women become victims of human trafficking.
So, in this vicious cycle, the more illegal immigration, the more money for the cartels. And the more money for the cartels, the more drugs they produce.
For cartels, the illegal immigrants are more than an expendable revenue source. They are a tool for facilitating the transport of drugs and criminals. The cartels push scores of migrant customers across the border so they can occupy American border agents. Then, they exploit the resulting gaps in patrol coverage to move across drugs, gang members, those they refer to as “high-value” individuals, terrorist-watch-list members, and others.
Border Patrol agents told me that, given the record-breaking border crossings they’re currently facing, there are times when every agent is busy processing migrant paperwork, leaving the border wide open for drug and human trafficking.
The drugs and gang members—and the accompanying violence—then flood into our American communities. As one agent put it, the people crossing the border don’t stay in this area, and neither do the drugs.
More than 100,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses—mostly from fentanyl—which are really more akin to CCP-engineered poisonings. Several thousand were Tennesseans. The Tennessee sheriffs and mayors on the trip told me that deaths from illicit drug overdoses in their counties are at record highs.
Our Tennessee sheriffs know the families in their communities. They told me the toughest part of their job is to see a mother or a grandmother, to go to their home and tell them that their son or their grandson will never return. It’s heartbreaking. Each one of these obituaries has the CCP’s fingerprint on it.
The migrants’ money and usefulness to distract border agents are essential to the cartels’ operations. These illegal immigrants are incentivized to come because of our current catch-and-release policies.
To illustrate the current policy absurdity, last Friday, around midnight near a stretch of unfinished border wall outside of McAllen, Texas, our vehicle came across about 15 recently arrived migrants. They approached us and asked us where they could find the Border Patrol agents. They wanted to turn themselves in, having been coached by their cartel handlers that this was the first step to U.S.-government-funded release into America. Our policies are so upside-down that the suspects are looking for the officers.
Nevertheless, U.S. Border Patrol and other law enforcement agents are working tirelessly, day and night, to protect our nation. Understandably, morale is at an all-time low with a Biden Administration that refuses to give them the tools that they need to deal with this crisis.
Border Patrol can process a maximum of roughly 5,000 migrants a day; right now, they are facing nearly 8,000 migrants a day. And when the Biden Administration lifts Title 42 authority, they fear that the number could exceed 15,000 per day.
Therefore, and unsurprisingly, the constant plea I heard from Border Patrol agents was this: We need effective policy, not more agents, not more equipment. Bad policies are what have created this incentive to cross the border, and eliminating these policies is the only fix. Our agents signed up to protect our border, not to facilitate its demise.
Border Patrol agents in Laredo told me that the Migrant Protection Protocols—known as “MPP”—were a perfect illustration of the need for policy change. MPP was a policy that required migrants seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico until it was determined whether or not they were actually entitled to asylum. Most are not. When it was implemented in 2019, the agents said it was “like flipping a switch”—because this stopped people coming when they knew that they wouldn’t get in.
This “Remain in Mexico” policy cut illegal border crossings dramatically in FY20. Yet the Biden Administration nixed the MPP. And not surprisingly, border crossings more-than-quadrupled in FY21.
With the help of their media allies, Washington Democrats ignore this crisis, and they hope that the American people will, too. They don’t travel to the border because they don’t want to answer for the crisis they’ve created. They’ve chosen appeasement of loud, radical immigration groups over American security; over American sovereignty.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris haven’t seen the Border Patrol stations where the agents sacrifice day and night, mentally and physically, battling a crisis that their departments haven’t given them the tools to address.
For many Americans, this crisis seems far away, at least until it’s too late—until it’s their child, their grandchild, their brother and sister who become a statistic.
That’s the other thing I heard constantly from Border Patrol and law enforcement agents: We need someone to tell America what’s happening here.
With the President and media averting their eyes and abdicating their responsibilities, it becomes even more crucial to spread the word before more American lives are needlessly lost, before more migrants’ lives are destroyed in the journey or through indentured servitude once they arrive, and more communities are damaged beyond repair.
So, what can we do to address this crisis?
Even though the border crisis is worse than ever, the Biden Administration is voluntarily ending Title 42 pandemic-related authority for expedited removal. The Border Patrol agents I met this weekend believe this will make this record-breaking crisis substantially worse. Such a surrender of American security would be intolerable.
And there’s another health crisis that Title 42 is critical to battling: The cartels send migrants across at strategic points to bog down Border Patrol agents with paperwork processing that takes five times longer without Title 42. Then, they use the resulting enforcement gaps to move fentanyl across the border. We have to close these enforcement gaps with better policy.
So, I’ve introduced legislation to add drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 authority. Overdoses have become an epidemic in America. This legislation would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use Title 42 to combat drug trafficking across the border. This bill would give our Border Patrol agents the tools they need to quickly remove migrants who illegally cross the border, substantially freeing up agents to focus on actually stopping drug traffickers.
More than 100,000 Americans died last year from drug overdoses, many from fentanyl coming across our southern border. We desperately need Title 42 to fight this drug epidemic.
It’s a tool that would quite literally save American lives in every state in the union immediately.
The motion was objected to by Schatz, who opposed providing this executive authority to save American lives from deadly Chinese fentanyl being trafficked across the border.
Senator Hagerty: Madam President, I want to explain what just happened here.
My colleague objects despite the fact that record-breaking numbers of Americans are currently dying from overdoses fueled by fentanyl coming across our border. This legislation is a tool to help save American lives. Indeed, 100,000 Americans lives were lost last year due to drug overdoses. These lives are being deprived of the American dream forever.
So, Democrats are categorically opposed to commonsense border security tools to prevent drug trafficking into America—no matter how bad the drug overdose numbers get.
How much longer will it take to change course from the Biden immigration policies that have created this national security crisis?
How much longer will we allow our immigration system to be manipulated by a massive, transnational criminal alliance between the Chinese Communists and billion-dollar criminal cartels who are shipping deadly quantities of illicit drugs into the United States?
Madam President, I yield the floor.