Rep. Jim Jordan
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, on the ongoing border and fentanyl crisis. (Image from C-SPAN video feed)

(The Center Square) – Democratic El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego testified before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday that the southern border with Mexico is closed in El Paso and those who support border security measures are racist.

Before he gave his opening remarks, Samaniego said, “I must disabuse you of information, which I personally know to be false. There is no open border in El Paso. Immigrants seeking asylum largely present themselves to Border Patrol for processing.

“There is no invasion of migrants in our community. Nor are their hoards of undocumented immigrants committing crimes against citizens or causing havoc in our community. Claiming this continues a false, racist narrative against individuals to perpetuate violence that the El Paso community is all too familiar with,” suggesting that those who claim the border is open contributed to a 2019 school shooting in El Paso.

The judge made the comments after Hays County, Texas, resident Brandon Dunn testified about his son, a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, who was killed from fentanyl poisoning from drugs likely brought in through the southern border.

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, asked Dunn if he and his wife, who is Hispanic, believes that “wanting a secure border makes one racist or anti-Hispanic.” Dunn replied, “not in the slightest. Her family holds that same position.”

Samaniego testified instead of a Republican Terrell County judge who was originally scheduled to testify. Judge Dale Carruthers was among three Texas county judges who first declared an invasion last July. When doing so she addressed the issue of racism, saying, “Terrell County has less than 1,000 people. We have had [people from] over 100 different countries go through Terrell County. That is of every shade of Melanin in your skin. We have experienced an invasion that is something of every language.

“And I say that – I am a multi-racial judge. I am standing here letting you know it is not of color. There are over 100 countries coming through. We are trying to protect the sovereignty of Texas. I am a constitutional judge and we are standing behind the constitution.”

Terrell County Sheriff Thad Cleveland also pushed back on Samaniego’s claim, telling The Center Square he was “disappointed” to hear of his comments. A former long-time Border Patrol agent, Cleveland said, “We are allowing people into our country based on a lie. They are claiming asylum, and frankly don’t qualify for it. I personally have stopped several Cubans and Nicaraguans in Terrell County that were allowed entry under asylum within the past several months and now they are smuggling illegal aliens.”

Escobar made the comments as the FBI issued alerts about El Paso being a major human smuggling and kidnapping destination and as federal agents and Texas state troopers continue to arrest human smugglers and uncover stash houses of smuggled people.

Customs and Border Protection reported record high seizures of drugs and apprehensions of criminals, sex offenders and fugitives in January at El Paso’s ports of entry. They seized more than 500 pounds of hard drugs, apprehended 62 people with outstanding arrest warrants, including sex offenders. They also apprehended 10 fugitives in just the past three days.

That’s after CBP agents reported a 177% increase in apprehensions of inadmissible individuals and a 17% increase in cocaine seizures in 2022 from 2021.

That excludes Texas law enforcement officers through Operation Lone Star arresting more than 24,000 criminals who’ve come in through the southern border since March 2021, according to the governor’s office. They also recently rescued an 18-month-old baby who’d been kidnapped and held for ransom in El Paso.

El Paso, located across the Rio Grande River from Ciudad Juárez, is just miles from where rival gangs and cartels are fighting for control of a multi-billion-dollar human and drug smuggling enterprise historically run by the Sinaloa Cartel.