WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of Republican lawmakers in Congress are pushing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address a growing number of undocumented immigrants and the flow of illicit drugs at a U.S. border. However, this border probably isn’t the one you’re thinking of.
“The southern border, you’ve got to come across a river. The northern border, you’ve just got to take one step,” said Representative Mike Kelly (R- PA). “There’s no lines drawn. There’s no fence. There’s nothing.”
Rep. Kelly serves as co-chair of the Northern Border Security Caucus in Congress. He says the roughly 5,500-mile border is largely unprotected and needs to be addressed.
“When I say unprotected- do we have border control up there? Yes. Do we have enough border patrol there? Absolutely not,” said Kelly.
According to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), land encounters are on the rise over the last three fiscal years. 189,402 encounters were reported for Fiscal Year 2023. That’s 80,000 more encounters than FY 2022 and roughly seven-times the encounters reported along the northern border in FY 2021.
Additionally, over 55,000 pounds of drugs were seized in FY 2023 along the northern border.
“People don’t really think that there is a border up there that we have to worry about. We know a lot about what’s happening in the southwest because it’s 24 hours a day every day, and that needs to be addressed. There’s no question about that,” said Kelly.
The northwest Pennsylvania Congressman recently testified before the House Judiciary Committee about the threats and vulnerabilities of an unsecured northern border and the need for more agents.
“There’s one stretch I think, of almost 500 miles where there is one agent patrolling that area- one,” said Kelly in the Nov. 3 hearing, where he also urged colleagues to support a resolution directing DHS and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to develop a formal plan to secure the northern border. According to Kelly, the resolution is backed by 15 of his colleagues.
Officials with DHS and CBP say the department is working tirelessly and utilizing innovative technology to stem the flow of illicit drugs like fentanyl. CBP recently announced a comprehensive approach to fight the opioid epidemic.
Officials also say comprehensive screening and vetting are in place to detect and prevent individuals who pose national security or public safety risks from entering the United States.