EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Republican House leaders and former Trump officials on Wednesday urged their Democratic colleagues to keep Title 42 in place to avoid further spikes in illegal immigration and keep deadly drugs like fentanyl from coming across the border with Mexico.

They also accused the Biden administration of losing operational control, with an estimated 700,000 people having eluded border agents in the past 16 months. That is in addition to the 2 million-plus encounters on record that led to migrants either being expelled back to Mexico or released into the U.S. with a promissory Notice to Appear in immigration court down the line.

“We’ve had 2.5 million people come into our country illegally that we caught. That’s larger than the city of Houston, Texas. […] And, as has been pointed out, at least 700,000 that we know of that got away. Dozens of people we caught were on the terrorist watch list, which begs the question, how many more came in that weren’t caught were on the terrorist watch list?” said House Minority Whip U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana.

The GOP leaders and their guests on a Wednesday online news conference repeated allegations that the president is keeping an “open borders” policy that empowers Mexican drug cartels and threatens national security. But they also spread the blame at their Democratic colleagues in an election year where political experts say immigration and border security could sway some voters.

“We are also feeling this crisis in states like New York. Every state is a border state, every district is a border district,” said U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York. “House Republicans remain committed to holding Democrats accountable for this catastrophic failure. You do not have a country if you do not have secure borders.”

Added U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas: “A lot of times people will come out to Washington, and they will whine, they will complain about all the things that are wrong and they will blame it on the White House. We’re not doing that. […] This isn’t a Republican issue, it isn’t a Democrat issue, it’s an American issue and it starts right here in Congress, it starts right here in the House of Representatives.”

Some former Trump officials like Mark Morgan, who was the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, also got into the act.

“I am confident that if we can get the right individuals in Congress that know we should start talking about America, what is in the best interest of American citizens […] It’s time we start being honest with the American people, it’s time we start framing about the issue it is: It is about border security, it’s about national security,” Morgan said.

The GOP onslaught is only likely to get more intense as the election approaches, analysts say.

“Immigration is definitely going to be a mid-term election issue this year,” said Richard Pineda, associate professor of communication at the University of Texas at El Paso. “The Biden administration probably has very good intentions as far as immigration, but I don’t think they’ve built up the infrastructure or have a good set of policy goals.”

The administration also has had a hard time clearly communicating its immigration objectives, he said.

“Either Biden lays out a very specific plan or that this is step one of a comprehensive immigration (reform) process. But right now, it’s unclear to most people what the administration is trying to do. It’s not clear how to gauge effectiveness,” Pineda said.

And that’s on top of Americans’ concerns about inflation and a successful transition out of the COVID-19 crisis and economic recovery, he said.

Absent that, GOP stalwarts will continue their attacks.

Current, former immigration officials say Biden endangering migrants

Republicans and their guests on Wednesday chastised Democrats for justifying migrant releases under the guise of compassion when their actions allegedly are enticing more migration and placing vulnerable women and children in the hands of the drug cartels.

“We hear (border agents) all the time say phrases like ‘Broken arrow.’ That is used when the last line of defense has become overwhelmed, meaning we have handed our southern border to the cartels,” Morgan said. “And what happens when we overwhelm our system with illegal immigration? Fifty, 60, 80 percent of our agents in some areas are pulled off the front lines, pulled off their national security jobs to be nothing more than travel agencies for the illegal aliens.”

Other guests like Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said what some people see as being compassionate toward migrants actually contributes to their victimization.

“What we see today is not humane, is not compassion. It’s the empowerment of rich transnational criminal organizations that prey and victimize innocent women and children,” Judd said. “We see an administration enacting policies that encourage women and children to put themselves in the hands of the most dangerous human beings on Earth today. These people rape, abuse and at times murder (them). And it’s because this administration’s policies are allowing these cartels to go into nations around the world advertising their services.”