FORT HANCOCK, Texas (Border Report) – Republican members of Congress and congressional candidates on Monday toured a stretch of border to see how farmers and law enforcement are dealing with record flows of fentanyl and migrants from Mexico.

The delegation met with federal and local lawmen and held a news conference where the wall ends just across the border from El Porvenir, Mexico – a farming town long-known as a crossing point for illegal drugs controlled by cells of the Sinaloa cartel.

“Up in Maine, in New Jersey, we’re losing two people every day to fentanyl overdoses. Two people a day in a state where we only have a population of 1.3 million people,” said former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. “We’ve got to stop this scourge and the only way to do that is to secure the border.”

Derrick Van Orden, a GOP candidate for Congress in Wisconsin, echoed Middle America’s concerns about stopping the flow of synthetic drugs from Mexico that killed more than 100,000 U.S. citizens in 2021.

“I came down here because we’re an agrarian district and we’re having huge problems; we’ve had hundreds of our citizens overdose on fentanyl and that is coming directly from Mexico. China sends precursor chemicals or the manufactured (drug) itself and is smuggled across the southern border and it winds up on Main Street, Wisconsin and that’s unacceptable,” he said.

U.S. Rep Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, hosted the delegation saying it’s important for members of Congress from all over the United States to visit the U.S.-Mexico border at least once so they know what is going on when immigration or border security bills come up for discussion.

“This is straight from the horse’s mouth,” Gonzales said, referring to the visitors hearing first-hand accounts from farmers, ranchers and Border Patrol agents. “They deal with this stuff every single day.”

Gonzales said the record surge of undocumented migrants continues to force the Border Patrol and other federal immigration agencies to take agents away from patrol duties to help process migrants. “The Border Patrol is overrun and they don’t have the manpower […] a lot of folks down here feel they’re on their own.”

Support for Operation Lone Star

While his Democratic counterpart U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, has called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” a political stunt and called for an investigation of use of resources, Gonzales and the visiting GOP said deploying state police and National Guardsmen to help patrol the border is necessary in light of the Biden administration’s “abandonment” of border security.

“Governor Abbott has done everything he possibly can to help secure the border. The reality is this is a federal issue. It is Congress’ job to work with the administration to fix this problem,” Gonzales said. “This shouldn’t be about politics. What is happening, what I’ve seen first-hand is the states are on their own. Gov. Abbott has used every tool in his toolbox to secure (the border). So has everyone at the local level whether it’s a sheriff, the county judges, they’ve done everything they possibly can. It’s not fair to them, it’s not fair to the state, it’s not fair to the country. The reality is every city in America has become a border city.”

Vaccine ‘ultimatums’ to border agents undermine border security

The Republicans also expressed dismay at the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination mandates for federal workers that could result in the loss of immigration and Border Patrol agents.

“We’re facing the worst border crisis in decades – that the Biden administration has caused – and they’re going to try to fire agents? It’s the wrong approach. Same with the military, you’re going to fire military folks that highly trained, highly skilled and you’re going to let them go over a vaccine mandate? It’s the wrong thing to do,” Gonzales said.

Added U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Oklahoma, “we’re in the middle of a crisis – in the middle of a border war really in the context of the drug cartels – you don’t make it harder for people to join the fight and you definitely don’t run over people in the middle of a fight. The vaccine mandate should be a choice that people should have.”

Some of the visiting Republicans are part of the GOP’s “Young Guns” initiative involving the grooming of candidates in battleground congressional districts. Poliquin, for instance, represented Maine in the U.S. Congress from 2014-2018 and is making a bid to recover a seat lost to Democrat Jared Golden.

Gonzales said he’s confident the Republicans in November will pick up the five seats they need to wrestle control of the House of Representatives away from the Democrats.