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Border Patrol officers at hearing address fentanyl, crossings

(NewsNation) — Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability questioned sector chiefs on the front lines of the U.S.-Mexico border about the unprecedented number of crossings, seizures of fentanyl and more during a hearing Tuesday.  

This comes after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas attempted to block the agents from testifying — successfully preventing two of them from speaking. Giving testimony on Tuesday were Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin of the border’s Tucson Sector and Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez of the Rio Grande Valley Sector.

“We went from what I would describe as unprecedented to a point where I don’t have the correct adjective,” Modlin said.

While the immigration narrative is centered primarily around family units, Border Patrol says agents are now encountering single adults. 

House members on Tuesday placed their focus on the flow of fentanyl into the United States, using data to show that the overwhelming majority is seized by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry.

“We had a change in president in 2020 and some changes in border policy,” Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D- New Mexico, said. “And what we can see here is that the facts show we are seizing a lot more fentanyl and for me, as a mom, that is a sign of success.”

Even as fentanyl is being seized, though, Border Patrol agents are still finding a lot of it in the field, predominantly being backpacked across the border.

“Last year, we seized about 700 pounds of fentanyl (in the Tucson sector alone),” Modlin said. Broken down, that is roughly 3,174,500 pills.

The Drug Enforcement Agency says drug cartels are behind the flow of fentanyl into the country. Chavez says the cartels are making $38 billion off human and drug smuggling, all while capitalizing on a shortage of resources along the southern border.

“Our agents are out there,” Chavez said, adding that they are saturated with different tasks and rescue missions and, in the process, are “abandoning frontline operations.”

House committee members on the left stressed that their colleagues across the aisle failed to pass an omnibus bill that would have allocated additional resources to the southern border.

“This is serious. People’s lives are in the balance,” Stansbury said. “There are deaths happening all across our country because of these issues.”

Both chiefs said that, with more funding, they would be able to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.