Border chief testimony: No words ‘to describe what’s going on’

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


Just hours before President Biden touted his accomplishments in his second State of the Union address, two Customs and Border Patrol chiefs painted a grim picture of a border under siege by powerful drug cartels whose sophisticated resources far outpace those of law enforcement. 

Two agents — whose testimony was previously scuttled by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Tuesday. They told lawmakers about tens of thousands of migrant women and children being exploited by cartels in a massive sex-trafficking operation, as well as the overwhelming flood of fentanyl, deported criminals, suspected terrorists, and “gotaways” pouring into the nation’s interior.

The hearings also shed light on a shocking increase in border deaths and suicides among agents burdened with what has become an impossible, thankless, and increasingly dangerous job of protecting American citizens. 

“I don’t have the correct adjective to describe what’s going on,” John Modlin, chief patrol agent in Arizona’s Tucson sector, said during his testimony.

Modlin emphasized that apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have more than quadrupled in the short time since Biden took office.

“I can tell you that in fiscal year ‘18, ‘19, and ‘20, Tucson sector had about 60,000 apprehensions. In 2021, 190,000 apprehensions, so we tripled the previous year,” he said. “Last year it quadrupled, last year it was 250,000. We’re 20,000 ahead right now so we went from what I would describe as unprecedented to a point where I don’t have the correct adjective to describe what’s going on.”


Modlin described the way in which what began as a handful of cartels profiting from smuggling migrants across the border has transformed under the Biden administration into a vast and sophisticated network of human and drug-smuggling and sex-trafficking rings whose resources outmatch those allotted to America’s border agents.

Gloria Chavez, chief patrol agent in the Rio Grande Valley sector of southern Texas, told lawmakers that Mexican drug lords use high-tech drones to identify vulnerable sections of the southern border they can use as smuggling corridors.

“Due to its proximity to the border of Southern Mexico and Central America, RGV is identified as a major corridor by cartels and transnational criminal organizations, and it is exploited daily for human smuggling, narcotics trafficking, and other illicit activities,” she explained.

Modlin added that, in his sector of Tucson, “Nearly all migrants we encounter are completely outfitted in camouflage by the smuggling organizations before they cross.” He added, “Many are previously deported felons who know they are inadmissible to the United States. And many pose a serious threat to our communities.”

Modlin also described one of the methods of human smuggling favored by the cartels called “task saturation,” which consists of splitting large groups of migrants into smaller ones, sending them to various points along the border, and releasing them all at once, “effectively saturating the area with migrants and exhausting our response capability.”

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) asked Modin if he was worried that “the cartels are leveraging a chaotic situation to bring in criminals or suspected terrorists to evade apprehension entirely?” 

“As I described earlier, that process of task saturating does leave areas vulnerable and then allows people to cross that we’re aware of, in the case of a gotaway, but we just can’t get there to apprehend them,” Modlin replied, adding: “I think the other concern is the unknown amount of gotaways – the people that we don’t see.”


Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) questioned agents about the impact of the Biden administration’s border policies on vulnerable migrant children while pointing out Democrats’ hypocrisy on the subject.

“It has been estimated that a shocking 60 percent of Latin American children who cross the border are caught by cartels and exploited for child pornography and drug trafficking which would be roughly 200,000 kids under this administration,” Luna began. “I hear a lot of rhetoric saying that it was wrong for people to separate children but I, as a Hispanic woman and a veteran, think that it is the right thing to do to separate children until you can biologically confirm that they are not being handed over into the hands of traffickers,” she continued, referring to Democrats’ previous accusations that the Trump administration kept children in “cages.” 

She asked Modlin if he agreed that children needed this barrier to protect them from being exploited by criminals claiming to be family members. 

“I would agree,” he said.


Committee Democrats sought to downplay the gravity of the agents’ testimony, accusing Republicans of grandstanding and perpetuating white supremacy in their efforts to let the American public see exactly what is happening at the border.

Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) said Republicans were seeking “cable TV” moments instead of solutions by tying illegal immigration to border security and the record amounts of fentanyl that are flowing across the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

“We should not be playing politics with people’s lives,” she said.

Democrats fell back on oft-repeated racism accusations, saying Republicans’ real objective in holding the hearings was to “amplify white nationalist conspiracy theories” on Twitter.

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who is black, called Democrats out over the tweet during the hearing.

“I’m just going to cut to the chase,” he said.

For my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who want to state that we’re using this hearing for white nationalism, I’m not doing that. So, if you feel that strongly, come walk to this side of the room and let’s talk about it face-to-face. But leave that kind of silly stuff for somebody else. Don’t bring that here today. This stuff is serious.

Ranking Democrat committee member Jamie Raskin (Md.) asserted that “MAGA” Republicans are actually preventing the Biden administration from enforcing border security.

“Republicans driven by the MAGA wing have been systematically thwarting and derailing comprehensive efforts to improve America’s immigration system and strengthen border enforcement for years,” he declared.

This article was informed by a House Oversight Committee press release and hearing transcript and reports by Border Report, The Washington Times, and Newsmax.