Governor Hutchinson's Weekly Radio Address: Firsthand Perspective from the Southern Border
LITTLE ROCK – Today I’d like to talk about my recent trip to the southern border of Texas. General Kendall Penn, Adjutant General of the Arkansas National Guard, joined me for a visit with members of the Arkansas National Guard who are in Texas to support Operation Lone Star. They are doing a fantastic job for our state and nation. We also went on a fast boat inspection of the Rio Grande River and received a briefing from the chief of the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande sector.
The issues at the border are familiar to me. When President Bush appointed me as Undersecretary in the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, one of my tasks was to oversee security of our southern border. The problems were challenges 20 years ago. But the current number of illegal crossings and apprehensions, the volume of illegal drugs seized, and the human trafficking are far worse than we’ve ever seen, especially in Texas.
Under Operation Lone Star, there have been nearly 7,000 arrests and nearly 150,000 illegal aliens that have been apprehended and referred to federal immigration authorities. And then Border Patrol apprehensions and seizures are on top of those numbers.
We have a crisis at the border. It is a humanitarian crisis, a border-security crisis, and a public health crisis all rolled into a national security threat. It’s never been worse than it is right now. Any time you have migrants coming across our border from scores of countries, waiting for the right moment and then successfully coming in, this is not a closed border.
Until January, U.S. border policy had controlled the flow of illegal crossings and drugs. But those policies were reversed, and that puts all of us at risk, especially those who live along the border in Texas and Arizona. We must change our policy in order to regain control.
I was one of 26 governors who signed a letter requesting a meeting with President Biden to discuss the crisis. After three weeks, the President has not responded. On Wednesday, nine other governors joined Texas Governor Greg Abbott for a press conference to demand federal action to control the border.
Governor Abbott has allocated more than a billion dollars to continue building the wall along the Texas border and to initiate other measures to protect his state.
The illegal immigration and drug smuggling is a national problem. Those who cross illegally don’t remain in Texas and neither do the drugs. They are coming into Arkansas and all over the United States. Every state has an interest in bringing this under control.
Late Monday night, we took a boat tour along a section of the Rio Grande River that is a hotspot for smugglers. Then we hiked through the brush on the Texas side of the river. The people who patrol at night work in total darkness and rely on night-vision goggles.
Arkansas is doing its part as we are asked. The men and women from the Arkansas National Guard who deployed in July are doing an incredible job of maintaining vehicles for the Texas National Guard.
My trip was useful as I saw firsthand the enormity of the challenge along our border and to personally thank the men and women who serve our country as Border Patrol agents and as National Guard members.