Construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border stopped Jan. 20, thanks to President Joe Biden’s executive order, issued the day of his inauguration. What does this mean for the safety of Arizonans and many families who have ranches along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona?
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, joins the podcast to discuss that question, cartels, drug trafficking, and why he thinks Biden administration policies will encourage more illegal immigration.
We also cover these stories:
- The second day of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial kicked off on Wednesday with House Democrats laying out a case against Trump.
- Prosecutors in Georgia are beginning an investigation into Trump’s attempts to have Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, “find” enough votes to make Trump the winner.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now encouraging individuals to wear two masks when in public or when interacting with people outside their household.
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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona. Congressman Biggs, it’s always great to have you on at “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
Rep. Andy Biggs: Rachel, it’ always good to be with you too.
Del Guidice: You recently just got back from a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border and I wanted to ask and go through some of the stops that you made.
But one of the first stops was in Sasabe, Arizona, getting to tour the border wall. And there’s some spots where construction has ended. Well, actually, it’s completely ended since the Biden administration ended the construction on the 20th of January, the day of the inauguration.
So can you tell us a little bit about what you saw during this trip, and especially at this first stop?
Biggs: Yeah. So, when we go there, our first stop was Sasabe. And Sasabe used to have a mile of fencing either way. And it had, at the end of the fencing, it had four-strand barbed wire with a small handmade gate with a slip knot. So if anybody was coming in from Mexico, you just lifted the slip knot over the post and in you could come.
And … from the north side, we could see into Mexico, and you see all paths lead to that little gate there.
But what we saw, under the Trump administration, they had extended that fence quite a ways, a good number of miles on each side. And it was definitely an improvement that was there.
It slowed traffic down, according to our friends at the Border Patrol. And it went right to the edge of the Indian reservation that’s there, the Tohono O’odham reservation that’s there, and stopped. But it was really good. It’s really an improvement.
Del Guidice: As we’ve talked about a little bit, the Biden administration did end construction on the border wall.
So, on a broader note, how has the rhetoric, do you think, from the Biden administration affected the situation already at the border with this construction ending? Is it resonating with caravans and illegal immigrants? What do you foresee happening, as all of this movement now with the construction has stopped?
Biggs: Well, stopping the construction, they left gaps all along the border. And some of those gaps are 50, 60 miles or longer even that people can get in because the fence didn’t get finished.
Then when you add the rhetoric in of the Biden administration talking about amnesty, their attempts to prevent deportations, their attempts to stop the MPP (or “Remain in Mexico” program), their willingness to let lapse the agreements that they have with the Northern Triangle states—Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala—all of those things basically incentivize people to come into the United States.
So that’s why you’re seeing caravans coming together. You’re seeing cartels inviting people more. You’re seeing [nongovernmental organizations] advertising. All of that is going to bring more people in. It’s going to act as a draw.
And now this notion of basically revamping [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and not removing people from this country who are violent criminals, it’s really going to be a problem for the United States. You’re going to have a massive surge of people coming in. And a lot of those people just won’t be very good.
Del Guidice: Speaking of that surge that you just mentioned, Congressman Biggs, there’s expected to be quite a big surge, and the administration has talked about amnesty for more than 10 million illegal aliens.
How do you envision more illegal immigrants coming into the U.S. for that amnesty? How do you envision how that will affect not only the country, but also the state of Arizona as a whole?
Biggs: First of all, the infrastructure of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, it just cannot process and deal with it because they’re also going to deal with increased refugee numbers and amnesty numbers. And when that happens, you’re going to get back to the catch-and-release program that had been really curtailed under President [Donald] Trump.
So what that means is, people are going to come in, they’re going to make a false amnesty claim.
By the way, there are over a million of these people in the country today who were told to show back up and they’ve never bothered to show back up. And they will be given a piece of paper that says, “Appear back at this particular building for your amnesty interview or hearing,” or whatever it may be. And it’ll be a couple of years out.
That’s what happens in catch-and-release. They’ll go into the country, there’ll be in our country, in the interior. There will be no one that goes and gets them because ICE will not have that authority to do it anymore or they’ll curtail that authority. So you’re going to get overrun.
We don’t have the infrastructure to deal with it. And quite frankly, the biggest month that we ever apprehended, the big surge, two years ago, was about just under 160,000 people we apprehended. I believe we’re going to be well over 160,000 on a monthly basis.
Del Guidice: One of the stops that you made during this trip to the border was the Nogales Port of Entry. Can you share a little bit about what you saw and learned during that stop?
Biggs: Yeah. We just did the customs side of the house. So CBP, C stands for customs. So when we went in, we saw the apparatus, we saw the lanes for cars, we saw the walkthrough lanes of this one Mariposa … Port of Entry.
And they took us in and we could see, they showed us … an example of the substantial amount of fentanyl that they’ve seized and other drugs as well. We got to see the loading dock where they’re checking produce and everything else. It is a big-time operation that happens there.
Drug trafficking is picking back up. And so, as we went along the border, we had some areas where they said [there] were hard drugs, and this is where it was, right there—Nogales area, right there, along the border. It’s the hard narcotics that are coming in, now, in substantial amounts.
When we went further east, it was marijuana. It’s still big, and bigger, because it’s cheaper to bring in black market marijuana than use the dispensaries in a state, even in Arizona, where pot is legal now.
So you see increased drug trafficking. … Human trafficking is increasing as well. When you see border crossings increase, you’re going to see drug trafficking increase too.
Del Guidice: Is there anything you can talk about when it comes to how cartels traffic these drugs into our countries, and sort of the systems that they have down to evade law enforcement finding them? Is there anything you can share about how much of a science they really have this down to?
Biggs: Yeah. It’s pretty amazing. They will make, in some of these commercial truck-type things, they’ll have fake watermelons, for instance, or fake melons that have been hollowed out, and there’s narcotics placed in there.
And they stick those in the center so that, hopefully, if that truck’s being X-rayed, or if you have drug-sniffing dogs, that they won’t catch it because you’ve got all these other things.
They will put them in engines. They’ll put them in tires. They will put them just in amazing places in cars. They’ll put them in body cavities. And we saw examples of all of that while we were at the Mariposa, the Nogales Port of Entry that you’re talking about.
So it is sophisticated stuff. And a lot of these people don’t get prosecuted. And so they just get sent back to Mexico and they’ll try it again later.
Del Guidice: One of the really enlightening parts of the trip that you went on was this visit to Bell Ranch in Nogales, Arizona, and the Chilton family has this ranch. Can you tell us a little bit about how the border wall has really impacted their community?
Biggs: Yeah, so, that’s great. That’s a great question. So, as the border wall in Nogales has been expanded—and by the way, Rachel, they kept a lot of the old border wall, which was shorter. It was 12- to 18-foot in different places. And then they built this new, bigger wall, 30-feet high.
It really has slowed traffic down in some of those areas because now you’ve got a double barrier. And they’ve extended it out of waste. And they have found that it has really slowed down some of the encroachment from south of the border onto the ranches.
But, as we were told, the fence ends. And right now, because the Biden administration has no intention of finishing the fence, it ends. And so it basically acts as a funnel. Now, they’re going around the fence and they’re coming in.
I think Mr. Chilton told us that they’ve got like 60 miles, something like that, where there’s no fencing or really anything at all on his ranch. And so they continue to have people coming through. …
Some of the ranchers you and I met, they contacted us, actually, the very next day, and said that they just had a bunch of illegal crossers come across their ranch, the day after we had been talking to him.
Del Guidice: One of the other people we got to speak with was Sheriff Mark Dannels in Sierra Vista, who talked a lot about the impact of the Biden administration ending construction on the border wall.
Congressman Biggs, can you share with us some of the concerns that he talked about that he is concerned will specifically impact his community at Sierra Vista?
Biggs: Since Sierra Vista is so close to the border and Cochise County is a big border, geographically, and border county, he is concerned.
Human trafficking is big and drug trafficking is big. And the U.S. attorneys general in Arizona, and all along the border, they’re overrun, quite frankly.
So they require a certain amount of cases, drugs. I won’t tell you the pounds that you have to have because it’s a certain amount of poundage of drugs, and they have to have it on their possession when they call. You got to catch them just so cold before they will take that case.
So what they’ve done is, because they’re concerned about the crime and the increase of crime in their small community of Sierra Vista, the sheriff down there’s done an excellent job with …
They’ve got cameras. They’ve got people watching. And they’ve got a cooperative agreement with the county attorney there that they will prosecute those cases because they’re really concerned about juveniles.
Because one of the things that’s happening is, on the American side, young people are being recruited. … To the kid, it’s a lot of money, but to the drug cartels and whatnot, it’s not much money. They will pass this money along so that these kids will bring in drugs or help human traffic. So they’re concerned about that.
And now the county attorneys down there, the local officials [are] actually stepping in, and they’re prosecuting those cases as state crimes. And they have been resoundingly successful.
Del Guidice: What can you share about what the Border Patrol thinks about this border wall construction ending?
I know in the media, a lot of different reporting is discussed and talked about how the Border Patrol feels. But since you’ve talked to a lot of these agents one-on-one yourself, what is your perspective on what the Border Patrol thinks of this construction stopping?
Biggs: Well, almost universally, when I talked to Border Patrol agents, they think the fence is very, very helpful.
Most of them agree it’s not the be-all and end-all, but it’s very helpful because it only takes one agent to patrol 2 miles, 2 linear miles, if there’s a fence, but it takes three to five agents per every mile where there isn’t a fence to provide adequate control and command to that.
So you’re talking about a 6- or 10-to-1, somewhere between 6- and 10-to-1 agents necessary. So they like the fence.
They also need equipment. They want better communications. There are places where it’s so rugged. A lot of people just don’t realize how rugged it is out there. But it is so rugged that there are times that they can’t even communicate. So they want better communications equipment and whatnot.
But the fence has been a really terrific deterrent. And if we can finish the whole fence, it would be a fantastic deterrent and make our agents feel safer and it would also make them more efficient.
Del Guidice: Well, and finally, Congressman Biggs, what does the ending of the construction of the border wall, big picture, mean for the safety of not only these ranching families along the border, but also just Arizonans as a whole?
Biggs: Well, Rachel, as you know, you’ve been down a couple of times now with us, and you know that the fencing is important because it slows it down. But when you don’t have fencing, we really don’t know what the number is of people that are getaways. We think we know. We think we have an idea, but they’re getting away, probably at least 1-to-1.
So we know right now, we’re catching about 3,000 people across the border every day. That means that you probably have 3,000 people you’re not catching, something like that.
And it isn’t just that they impact the border ranchers. They get up into Tucson and Phoenix. And then Phoenix is a load-out point to go all over the country. And they’ll bring drugs and they’ll smuggle these humans. They’ll traffic in human beings, for Pete’s sake. They’ll bring them in and they’ll send them all over the country.
Even the people who have what I would call benign intent to be here—in other words, they want to come, they want to work—they are being trafficked because the cartel controls everybody who’s coming across that border.
Everybody who’s coming across the border, whether you’re coming [with an] illegal shipment in a produce truck or whatever, they’re all paying a mordida of some kind to get across the border from the cartel.
So what it does is you got bad guys that are coming in as well, and that spreads out to the entire country. And all of the rhetoric from the Biden administration is going to exacerbate that. It will not get better. It will get worse because of his policies and his rhetoric and claims.
Del Guidice: Well, Congressman Biggs, thank you so much for coming on “The Daily Signal Podcast” and talking to us. We really appreciate having you with us.
Biggs: Absolutely, Rachel. Any time.