The top Republican on the House Committee on Homeland Security is raising concerns that the Biden administration is shipping migrants to cities across the US without properly identifying them first.
New York Rep. John Katko, in an interview with The Post, expressed worries that the rush to get migrants out of overcrowded facilities at the US-Mexico border will create major security risks.
“They’re getting so many people coming in that they can’t process them, so what they’re doing is they’re just pushing him out of the facility as fast as they can,” he said Thursday.
Photos and videos obtained by The Post from that facility show migrants, including several children, sleeping on the ground, in foil blankets on tightly-packed mats.
Two of the photos show the sort of envelopes, containing plane tickets and flight information, some migrants are given before being put on planes to other US cities as they wait for their immigration hearings.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is also using grant funding for NGOs to instead pay for the transportation of migrants, including airline and bus fare, a Homeland Security Committee spokesperson told The Post.
During a trip to the Texas border last week, Katko said he observed a father and son who had entered the country illegally being sent on a flight to Philadelphia without any ID.
Authorities also have no way of verifying a person’s identification or checking whether they are on the terror watch list, Katko said.
“You get on the plane, they don’t have ID to get past security. They come across the border, they don’t have it. They say their name is Joe Smith, they have no way of verifying whether it’s Joe Smith, they have no way of verifying whether or not they may even be on the terror watch list, because we don’t have any of the background information,” he said.
“These people are getting out of planes, we’re paying for tickets, don’t know who they are, don’t know whether they’re dangerous or not and they’re going to these cities,” Katko continued.
The congressman recalled one high-ranking law enforcement official at the border telling him that: “The federal government is becoming the biggest facilitator of human smuggling across the border. Because they’re not delivering consequences on people breaking the law, and they’re sending people to their final destinations after they cross the border illegally.”
The issue, Katko said, is rooted in overcrowding at US Customs and Border Protection detention facilities caused by the unprecedented number of migrants, including unaccompanied children, flooding the southern border.
“It’s complete chaos and they’re hanging on by a thread,” Katko said.
He specifically called out one tent structure in Donna, Texas, which is crammed with thousands of migrants, most of them unaccompanied kids, despite having a 250-person capacity.
“I mean the Donna facility, I saw tents for lack of a better term, they had children and young adults, where they’re supposed to have 33 people in there, they had hundreds,” Katko recalled.
“They’re wrapped in aluminum blankets and the kind of like stacked like cordwood all over the floor,” he described.
Katko noted that the people he saw had not been tested for the coronavirus — because the tent facility wouldn’t have been able to quarantine them if they were found to have the bug.
Asked about the issue at a Capitol hearing on Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, agreed that the packed crowds of children were a “major concern” for spreading COVID-19.
Katko also worried about drugs flowing into the country, saying that in the Rio Grande Valley sector alone, fentanyl seizures were up 2,000 percent this year, which he attributed to the border crisis.
“It’s not just a humanitarian crisis, not just a security crisis, it’s going to be a crisis affecting our neighborhoods because drugs are pouring into the country at an alarming rate,” he said.
The lawmaker recently drafted a bipartisan proposal that would force the Department of Homeland Security to create a plan to deal with the escalating crisis — and allow the embattled agency to access $1 billion in emergency funding.
The agency could use the extra $1 billion in funding toward paying for overtime, expanding temporary DHS processing and holding capacity, replenishing food and equipment and getting extra help from other agencies.
A DHS spokesperson said the agency’s border security efforts include several levels of rigorous screening to detect and prevent people who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the country. The agency’s verification methods involve using multiple databases to determine if a person poses a security threat.