“The northern border is wide open,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said during a House hearing Tuesday.

Under President Joe Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, a surge of illegal crossings has occurred at the southern border. At the same time, officials note a sharp increase in illegal crossings at the northern border, where drug smugglers and other criminals have taken advantage of U.S. Border Patrol’s lack of resources.

“The U.S.-Canada border is now a hot spot for illegal alien crossings, including individuals on the terrorist watchlist, organized criminal activity, and illicit drug smuggling,” Rep. Dan Bishop, chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on oversight, investigations, and accountability, said in his opening statement.

Bishop, R-N.C., noted that some parts of the northern border are blocked by no more than a line of potted plants, photos of which he later posted on Twitter.

Rep. Glenn F. Ivey, D-Md., said the U.S.-Canada border is safe and the crisis is “manufactured,” and suggested that any troubles there began before Biden took office Jan. 20, 2021.

“The facts do not support the Republican claim that the northern border is, quote, ‘a source of death, drugs, and disorder,’” Ivey said.

Ivey suggested that President Donald Trump’s focus on the southern border caused the significant staffing problems on the northern border.

Here are four takeaways from the House panel’s hearing on the growing crisis at the northern border.

1. Explosion in Northern Border Crossings Under Biden

The number of crossings at the northern border has exploded in the past year and continues to increase.

“There has been over an 800% increase since the last fiscal year,” Bishop said of Border Patrol encounters with illegal aliens at the northern border.

Andrew Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy at the Center for Immigration Studies, testified that the number of crossings at the northern border has jumped from “just over 27,000 encounters” in fiscal year 2021 to over 109,000 in 2022.

This year, Arthur said, the Border Patrol is on pace to log more that 165,000 crossings at the northern border in 2023.

What’s troubling about these recent encounters, he said, is the huge increase in illegal immigrants coming from places other than Canada.

“The majority of those encounters … have involved encounters at the ports [of entry], but the demographics are changing quickly,” Arthur said. “Where at most 60% of aliens deemed inadmissible at those ports in 2021 were Canadian nationals … more than 77% of aliens stopped in northern ports came from somewhere else.”

2. Border Patrol, Overwhelmed at Southern Border, Struggles to Meet New Threat in North

In his opening statement, Kelly said that the northern border, which is over 5,500 miles long, is wide open. 

It’s become vulnerable because the Border Patrol is inundated with challenges at the southern border, he said.

“This administration, by its failure to admit we have a problem, is the problem,” Kelly said.

The Pennsylvania Republican explained that when he spoke to the Border Patrol on the northern border in previous years, agents said they were fine.

“This year, you could see it in their face, they are drained,” Kelly said. “Because they feel they have no help coming from this administration.”

Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents agents, said Biden’s policies have handed the Border Patrol an “impossible” task.

“When you pull agents out of the field, what it does is it requires agents to patrol an area that is just not patrol-able with just one single agent,” Judd testified. “Again, you cannot control an area if you are deploying an agent to patrol for every 30 miles; it’s impossible to do that.”

 “We cannot send agents from the northern border to the southwest border and expect to keep control,” the union president said.

3. A Haven for Drug Smugglers and Fentanyl Trafficking

With the increase in illegal border crossings has come a significant jump in drug trafficking at the northern border.

“Under the Biden administration, drug smuggling has increased by 596% along the northern border, including a 26% increase in fentanyl,” Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., said, referring to the deadly synthetic narcotic. 

This has occurred while the number of Border Patrol personnel has remained static since 2009, and even decreased in 2022, Tenney said.

Tenney said her district in New York shares a long border with Canada, specifically Lake Ontario.

“Numerous traffickers utilize this large expanse of water to bypass more heavily guarded sections of the border, smuggling drugs into our communities,” she said.

The influx of fentanyl has been particularly problematic.

“Enough fentanyl came over the northern border in fiscal year 2022 and ’23 to kill 3.4 million Americans,” Bishop said.

Given the vast length of the northern border, he said, it’s a daunting task to stop huge amounts of illicit drugs from coming over.

4. Lack of Help from Biden, Mayorkas

Lawmakers and witnesses at the hearing pinned blame for the northern border’s troubles on Biden and Mayorkas.

“Under Secretary Mayorkas, each border sector must individually apply to receive permission to perform counter unmanned aerial system operation,” Tenney said, referring to drones. “It took Secretary Mayorkas roughly three weeks to approve the Buffalo sector’s ability to counter these [drone] operations.”

Bishop said that Biden’s policies have created a crisis for the Border Patrol and allowed criminality to get out of control.

“President Biden’s open borders policies and Secretary Mayorkas’s refusal to enforce our nation’s laws have jeopardized national security at the U.S.-Canada border and the operational readiness of Border Patrol agents,” he said.

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