Securing The Border: Oklahoma National Guard, Senator Lankford Report

If you take a snapshot of the US Mexico Border in the last 2 weeks, you'd see Border Patrol capturing convicted sex offenders entering the US illegally, seizing pounds of fentanyl and heroin, and rescuing a child after smugglers left her alone to fend for herself.

Wednesday, October 4th 2023, 11:09 pm

Border Security is the responsibility of the federal government.

So why did Oklahoma spend $825,000 to send our national guard to the border?

News On 6's Amanda Taylor traveled to the southern border. The troops she talked to down in Texas just got back, and now she’s sitting down with them and someone else who has deep insight on why they were needed.

If you take a snapshot of the US Mexico Border in the last 2 weeks, you'd see Border Patrol capturing convicted sex offenders entering the US illegally, seizing pounds of fentanyl and heroin, and rescuing a child after smugglers left her alone to fend for herself.

“Border issues are nothin' new. A lot of people have focused on it the last couple of years. It's an ongoing issue. But we're trying to build a coalition to say, ‘This problem doesn't get better by ignoring it,’” said Senator Lankford.

Oklahoma's Senator James Lankford knows more than most about the border. He's the lead Republican on homeland security.

“We have over 1,000,000 people this year that have crossed into our country that are got a ways that we have no idea who they are,” he said.

When News On 6’s Amanda Taylor was in El Paso, Texas, last month, she talked with several of our 50 Oklahoma National Guardsmen who were sent to act as a deterrent.

“Our goal right now is to keep them on their side keep us on ours so they can legally go through port of entry like they're supposed to do.”

At the request of Texas's governor, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt gave the go-ahead for Oklahoma troops to stay for 30 days.

When Lankford was asked about Oklahoma’s role when it comes to the border, he said that it was a federal issue.

“The federal government has responsibility constitutionally to be able to take care of our border and to secure that. The problem is, if the federal government is not doing its job, then the states feel the effect of rising drug increase or rise in prostitution. A rise in human trafficking our state,” he said.

During their mission, our guardsmen estimate they turned back 1,000 people trying to enter illegally.

Their boots are now back in Oklahoma as their 30-day assignment is over.

“What stood out most to me: the desperation,” said Spc. Robert Hinton with the Oklahoma National Guard.

“It’s really difficult to see the things you seen,” said Tech Sergeant Logan Christensen. “It changes the way you look at certain people and their situations. The desperation.”

“My takeaway is these are a lot more family groups than you’d expect,” Captain Jayce Crowder said.

“You see the distress that's within a lot of the families. You see, they have their kids, and it tugs at the heart,” said Sr. Airman Coleise Thomas.

What our troops saw represented 1 mile of a border that's 2,000 miles long.

While our guardsmen saw family after family trying to come across, Senator Lankford says those groups do drain our nation's resources and Border Patrol resources.

“The cartel will then say - literally put up an aerial UAV,” Senator Lankford said, “I mean, they'll put up a drone to be able to watch the Border Patrol come in and pick up families that they push across the border, they’ll go 2 miles upriver, and they'll send across a group of folks with backpacks that are carrying who knows what."

Senator Lankford was asked about how to balance security with humanitarianism while at the border.

“There's a humanitarian need there,” he said. “But there's a difference between meeting a humanitarian need and then releasing them into the country. When you release them into the country, it invites the next person to take the same dangerous journey again.”

And dangerous it is.

Senator Lankford says the cartels in Mexico are behind much of the illegal crossings, advertising around the world that if you want to get to America and get a job, they can help for a fee of anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000. And if one chooses not to pay…

“If you try to cross from the south to the north, they'll kill you. The Border Patrol will tell you the border is secure. It's just secure on the south side. You don't cross from south to north in any method without coming through the checkpoints of the cartels,” Lankford said.

There are those who get through without ever getting caught. But many of those who do still get to stay.

Senator Lankford says it'll be between 5 to 10 years before their asylum hearings.

“None of these have been vetted. Most of them have no identification, no background information at all. They cross the border, ask for asylum, they're released into the country within 24 hours, and told to show up at a hearing. And most of them we'll never see again.”

When asked about changes that need to happen and what could be done, Senator Lankford said this.

“Where's the deadline to fix immigration?” he said. “There's no deadline, so this hard issue just keeps getting postponed year after year after year.”

He says he's trying to build a coalition in the US House and Senate to resolve this by clarifying the definition of asylum and how it's handled.

“If we were to say to the next person that came across the border right now that had requested asylum, yes, you can request asylum. You have to stay here at the border, we'll hold you in this area, we'll actually connect you with judges. You'll have a hearing in 25 days. You have time to be able to visit with council if you want to be able to do that, you'll have your hearing. If you don't qualify for asylum, we'll turn you right back around,” Senator Lankford said.

“We can either complain about this or try to fix it. Our goal is to say let's fix it. More than we're just standing around complaining about it.”

Senator Lankford also talked about how he's working to take down drones from the cartels.

Last year, 10,000 of them were spotted coming over from Mexico into the US to track Border Patrol movements and even do drug drops.


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