As Biden backtracks on border wall, DHS faces accusations of obstructing internal probe
While Democrats have called a border wall "racist" and "unnecessary" in the past, they are now admitting it may be a good strategy to ease the humanitarian crisis at the border.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
President Joe Biden's recent reversal on building a border wall has created a political boomerang for Democrats just as Republican lawmakers investigate whether his administration is impeding efforts to assess the damage stemming from his relaxation of border security.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter Friday to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas seeking documents and information related to a memo DHS allegedly circulated to staff advising how they could withhold documents or systems logins to obstruct an investigation of administration border policies by the department's inspector general.
"In light of the growing catastrophe along the southern border, DHS's obstruction is particularly troubling," Comer wrote. "Rather than committing time and resources to deny information to the OIG, DHS should be dedicating resources to protecting the southern border. We write to request documents and communications about DHS's efforts to deny the DHS OIG access to information needed to conduct its audits and investigations."
Former Customs and Border Protection acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Tuesday the allegations are serious and fit a broader pattern of the Biden administration spinning bad news or trying to downplay statistics like the number of migrants found dead near the border or the number of aliens entering the country with prior criminal records.
"This has been the least transparent White House/administration that I've ever been affiliated with in 35 years of serving this country," said Morgan, who headed border enforcement under both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Morgan said the Biden administration's lax border policies are "jeopardizing every aspect of this nation's public health, safety and national security" and, moreover, "they're lying to the American people about it" by seeking to thwart legitimate investigations.
"I remember when I was commissioner, in the CBP job, as audits came down ... I was almost proud to participate in those audits, because I was proud of what we were doing to secure the border and save and protect American lives," said Morgan, now a visiting fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "This administration is doing the opposite. And why? Because they know what they're doing is absolutely detrimental to this nation's public health, safety, national security."
As Comer's team begins investigating the coverup allegations, the White House finds itself on defense after Biden quietly began construction of a partial border wall in Arizona after years of vehement Democratic opposition to Trump's efforts to build a barrier.
During his presidential campaign, Biden called Trump's wall "a slogan divorced from reality" and vowed: "There will not be another foot of wall constructed on my administration. Not another foot.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi likewise referred to border walls as "immoral" back in 2019.
Now, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is batting away questions about whether Biden's new project amounts to hypocrisy, declaring Monday that the president was "cleaning up the mess the prior administration left behind."
Politcal observers, however, are widely interpreting the turnaround on the wall as a concession to Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, facing a tough reelection bid this fall.
Either way, the about-face is a tacit admission that border walls can improve security, argues Morgan.
"There's multiple reasons why the wall works," he said. "So [the administration's] justification right now — but it still supports a reason why walls work — but they're actually building the wall, quote, to protect illegal aliens because the areas they are coming across where there's no wall ... it's dangerous for the migrants."
While the wall debate rages, House Republicans and their conservative allies are pressing ahead with efforts to improve border security, including plans to crack down on trafficking by cartels.
Republican Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) introduced the "Stop The Cartels Act" in response to the humanitarian crisis fueled by sharp increases in drug and human trafficking across the southern border.
"The Biden administration has exploited our broken border and helped make it worse," Davidson said on the "Just the News, Not Noise" TV show on Monday.
"They've exploited our broken immigration system and helped make it worse," he continued. "But no one's exploited it like the cartels. Just at the end of July, The New York Times had a piece that said under Trump, the cartels were making about 500 million. And so far under Biden, they're making about 13 billion."
According to Davidson's website, the Stop The Cartels Act would:
- impose harsher sanctions on cartels and broaden sanctions to include individuals who provide cartels support;
- hold Mexico accountable for weakening intelligence sharing by reducing foreign aid and demanding cooperation with U.S. law enforcement;
- require DHS to release extensive monthly reports on the status and number of migrants entering the country