Members of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce convened in Texas on Wednesday to conduct a field hearing just a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Testimony was presented in the small town of Weslaco in a joint hearing conducted by the Subcommittee on Health and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Most of the discussion revolved around the current fentanyl crisis and its relationship to border policy, which prompted some acrimony from critics who claimed that holding the hearing at the border was unnecessary.
“The attempt to conflate fentanyl with migrants is nothing more than a cheap political trick to use a public health crisis as justification to waste public resources on the same tired and ineffective border policies,” said Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, per WFXRTV.
“The politicians that visit here only do so to spread lies about the border and to use our community as a platform for their political purposes,” she said.
The accusations were countered by Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) during the hearing.
“This is a field hearing on the border because fentanyl comes across the southern border. This is not political theatre. This is not misinformation,” said Crenshaw, per WFXRTV.
As previously reported in The Dallas Express, the United States has been going through a growing epidemic of fentanyl overdoses and deaths over the last few years, with the bulk of the illicit substance making its way into the country from Mexico.
One notable aspect of the hearing was the testimony of Brooks County Sheriff Urbino “Benny” Martinez, who told the House members in attendance about the alleged pervasive use of drones by Mexican drug cartels to monitor law enforcement on the other side of the border.
“In the past 31 days of 2023, there have been 1,937 Mexican Cartel [drone] incursions in three South Texas border counties,” said Martinez.
The sheriff went on to discuss the increase in drug seizures his county has documented and the bodies of 929 dead migrants who crossed unlawfully and died from the harsh travel conditions that have been recovered in his jurisdiction since 2009.
“When there are no consequences for unlawfully entering the United States, and [the Department of Homeland Security] does not adjudicate asylum cases in a timely manner and remove those who don’t have valid claims, transnational criminal organizations will continue to be able to recruit migrants to come up here and overwhelm Border Patrol resources while they run narcotics and criminals around the back end,” Martinez claimed.