Editor’s Note: Jon Gabriel is editor-in-chief of Ricochet.com, a forum for conservative podcasts, and he is an opinion contributor to The Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @ExJon. The views expressed here are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.
The House Judiciary Committee conducted a hearing last week about 2,500 miles southwest of Capitol Hill. Five miles farther, and the committee could have seen all the gaps in the uncompleted border wall.
Texas cities such as El Paso and Del Rio get most of the media attention when people are discussing the immigration crisis. But Yuma, Arizona, just 5 miles from Mexico, has similarly suffered from our porous border. The community’s social, medical and law enforcement services have reached a breaking point, according to some GOP members of the Judiciary Committee.
Washington finally noticed. It’s about time.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, decided to convene a field hearing Thursday in Arizona’s southwest corner to highlight the damage done to the area.
“What we heard from people here in Yuma is how it overwhelmed their school system, their hospital system, their first responders, their law enforcement, (and) border patrol,” Jordan told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “The cost (is) to the folks here on the border and across our border, and maybe most importantly now, that’s coming across the country.”
Despite the outcry from citizens and politicians in both parties from dusty desert towns to New England vacation spots, no Democrat on the Judiciary Committee attended the event. (House Democrats insisted that they hadn’t been consulted on the hearing and that many Democratic lawmakers had already committed to other congressional delegation trips.)
Before a standing room-only crowd of locals, Yuma County Sheriff Leon N. Wilmot reported that US Border Patrol apprehensions in his county soared from about 40 a day two years ago to more than 1,000 a day eventually after President Joe Biden took office.
The official numbers tell the larger story. In December of fiscal year 2020, 40,565 migrants were apprehended along the border, according to US Customs and Border Protection. In December of fiscal year 2022, that number was 179,253, according to the agency — a more than fourfold increase. And those are just the migrants apprehended.
The cause is obvious: Biden’s policies. But Democrats and the White House dismissed Republican efforts as politically motivated stunts.
The citizens of Yuma, however, loudly applauded speakers throughout the hearing. This isn’t some Beltway game to them.
“On day one, Joe Biden said no more wall, no more ‘Remain in Mexico,’ no more deportation,” Jordan told Hannity. (Biden has urged Congress to pass new immigration laws, saying his powers to address the crisis are limited.)
Jordan added, “We’ve got to change things and pass legislation out of our committee and out of the House, which we plan to do.”
Dr. Robert Trenschel, president and CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center, told the congressional delegation that his facility spent $26 million from December 2021 to November 2022 on migrant care. No one is there to pay those bills.
“The city of Yuma has 100,000 people, and we’ve had over 300,000 people cross the border here,” Trenschel testified. “That’s three times the population of Yuma coming across the border. We’re the only hospital which is within a three-hour radius, which means they come here.”
These unexpected visitors affect the care of Yuma’s residents, who may have to travel as far away as Phoenix or other cities (more than 170 miles away) for medical services such as neonatal care, according to Trenschel, responding to lawmakers’ questions.
“One hospital should not and cannot bear the health care costs of a national migrant problem,” Trenschel concluded.
The problem is hitting border communities the hardest, but it is affecting other parts of the country as well.
Democratic mayors of Chicago, Washington and New York City have demanded action from the White House.
“The White House must ensure the immediate needs, that cities that are impacted receive the support they deserve,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams told Politico in January.
Adams complained about the 40,000 migrants that have arrived in New York since last year, saying, “There’s no more room.” Tell that to Yuma, which has hosted 300,000 despite having 8.4 million fewer residents.
While Biden may ignore the demands of some Republicans, Democrats and the American people, he shouldn’t overlook the plight of the migrants themselves.
Wilmot, the Yuma County sheriff, talked of the dead strewn across the desert, either from the brutal climate or at the hands of traffickers.
“The price tag for migrants being illegally smuggled by the cartels begins at roughly $6,000 per person and up to $15,000, depending on what country they are coming from,” Wilmot said.
Cartels often force migrants to carry illicit drugs as they head north. In 2022 alone, more than 12,000 pounds of fentanyl was seized on the border, Wilmot testified.
Imagine how many pounds weren’t seized.
There is only one person charged with solving the migrant crisis. It isn’t a nurse pulling a double shift in Yuma. It isn’t a sheriff’s deputy tracking cartel members along unpaved roads. It isn’t even a US representative taking the red-eye from Dulles.
The one person who can fix it is the President, and he can do so today.
Biden needs to accept the responsibility to protect our borders, admit that his policies have failed and replace Alejandro Mayorkas, the disastrous secretary of homeland security. (Mayorkas has called on Congress to fix the immigration system, which he says “has been broken for decades.”)
Until Biden does, expect a lot more suffering by migrants, big-city mayors and the good people of Yuma, Arizona.