State attorneys general say border crisis impacts communities far away

Securing the southern border deemed critical to fighting human trafficking and stopping deadly flow of fentanyl.

Updated: January 27, 2022 - 11:45pm

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Ahead of a two-day border summit hosted by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, attorneys general from across the country are sharing why border security is important for their states.

One of them, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, has expressed a sentiment other Republican AGs also share: “All states are border states” and all states are being impacted by President Joe Biden’s open border policies.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who’s attending the summit, told The Center Square, “The Biden administration’s many failures may have pushed the crisis at the southern border out of the headlines at liberal media outlets, but it’s far from over.

“President Biden’s failure to secure the border is harming Montana communities. Fentanyl and meth continue to flood across the border, making their way to our state, and bringing crime and death with them," Knudsen added. "I’m grateful that Attorney General Paxton is hosting this summit and giving attorneys general the opportunity to see the crisis firsthand.”

Knudsen sued the administration with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich last year.

“Law enforcement officers in Montana are doing what they can to combat crime resulting from drugs trafficked across the southern border, but we’re fighting an uphill battle until the Biden administration does its job and enforces immigration laws,” he said.

The current catch and release policy, not deporting as many as are eligible under Title 42, changing Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation policies, and releasing “thousands of people into our communities with no consideration of their potential criminal history is a dangerous policy,” Knudsen said.

Montana – a border state with Canada – is not immune to Mexican cartels, Knudsen noted.

Montana Highway Patrol officials have warned the public about large-scale criminal networks bringing illegal drugs and weapons into the state, contributing to increased addiction and violence. Criminal investigations in Montana have found that methamphetamine and fentanyl are coming from Mexico.

The Montana Department of Justice announced arrests of Mexican cartel members smuggling drugs into the state or managing distribution points in major cities. Last year, two major Montana meth traffickers were charged for their involvement with a drug trafficking ring reportedly connected to the Sinaloa cartel.

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said the six million people he represents are being negatively impacted by illegal border crossings. Coming to Texas isn’t the first time he’s been to the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year, he visited several locations “to get a firsthand look at the current state of the crisis” and collaborate with other attorneys general on proposed solutions, he said.

“Often, when government officials go to the southern border, we are shown all that is going right,” Rokita said. “But my experience at the Florida, Texas and Arizona borders, which I visited in late October, offered proof of all that is going wrong.”

Last August, Rokita filed an amicus brief joined by 14 other attorneys general in support of Texas and Missouri’s lawsuit to force the Biden administration to reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Texas and Missouri. But since then, Paxton and Missouri AG Eric Schmitt, who’s also attending the border summit, say they’ve since had to take additional action to hold the administration accountable to reinstate the policy.

“Securing the southern border is critical to fighting human trafficking and stopping the deadly flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the interior," Schmitt told The Center Square. "Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s weak border policies have led to record-high border crossings and enabled human traffickers and drug cartels to thrive, which affects Missouri and states all across the country.”

Texas and Missouri also sued the administration to require it to resume constructing the border wall using funds previously appropriated by Congress. A court hasn’t yet ruled on the case, but Schmitt said, “Missouri will continue to take concrete action to secure the border, even when the Biden administration won’t.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the agency was using the border wall funds for environmental and maintenance projects after halting all contracts and wall construction projects last year.

Arkansas AG Leslie Ruttledge, who’s also attending the border summit, told The Center Square, "We have seen the Biden Administration fail the American people by not taking control of the crisis at the border and it has impacted communities across our nation, including those in Arkansas. I want people to come to this great country in accordance with our laws and in the light of day, rather than running through the dead of night."

At a recent event in Texas, Ruttledge highlighted how Biden’s open border policies are contributing to increased crime and drugs heading north through Texas into Arkansas. Reyes also said at the same event that everything Texas is dealing with “is coming up to Utah. The amount of deaths we have to deal with from fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs is increasing exponentially. There are enough drugs pouring in from the south to kill our entire nation many times over. It is that serious. It is that sobering.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who’ll also be attending the summit, and who’s sued the Biden administration over vaccine mandates, argues Biden’s failure to protect the southern border has led “to bigger problems in Mississippi, such as opioid deaths and human trafficking.”

“On issue after issue, President Biden has overreached his authority and misdirected federal resources to achieve an agenda that is in line with liberal special interests, but certainly not with the interests of the people of Mississippi,” she told The Center Square.

A leader in fighting human trafficking, Fitch recently announced the results of a multi-agency investigation leading to multiple arrests in seven counties. She also just announced a multi-state effort she led to safeguard Model Penal Code provisions necessary to prosecute perpetrators of trafficking, child exploitation, and sexual assaults.

Paxton’s hosting the border summit, he said, after CBP has reportedly made nearly two million enforcement actions since Biden’s been in office and his “disastrous immigration policies have wreaked havoc on our communities and placed a massive burden on our state and nation.”

“Because of the scale of this crisis, the effects of unprecedented levels of illegal immigration are felt by all states,” Paxton added. “Violence, drugs, human trafficking, and unsustainable costs on our communities follow in the wake of wave upon wave of illegal immigration. My colleagues and I are meeting to discuss what else we can do to stop it.”