NewsHour Correspondent Tom Bearden reports on the politics of immigration field hearings in Philadelphia, San Diego, and other towns led by House republicans in order to drive up support for the immigration bill passed in the House last year.
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Today's House hearing, was held at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol station just south of San Diego. About 40 citizens, who were not allowed to ask questions, witnessed the proceedings, with the overflow outside in a tent.
It was the first in a series of field hearings Republican House leaders plan to hold in towns along the Mexican border. They say the purpose is to force the Senate and the president to get behind a get-tough immigration bill the House passed last year.
California's Ed Royce is the committee chairman.
REP. ED ROYCE (R), California: In December, the House of Representatives passed the Border Protection Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act. The Senate has passed a very different immigration bill. The House bill does more to gain operational control of our border.
The House bill requires more miles of fencing, while the Senate bill hinders fencing our southern border by requiring what one witness will testify to be unprecedented and problematic consultation with Mexican authorities.
This witness will testify also as to how the Senate bill ties the hands of state and local law enforcement officials in combating terrorism.
But the ranking Democrat on the committee, California Representative Brad Sherman, said the hearings are merely a show, designed to rally the Republican conservative base leading up the November elections.
REP. BRAD SHERMAN (D), California. These hearings are not designed to legislate. They're designed to whip up public opinion. So, the hearings that our subcommittee is having here today have been swallowed up by this political agenda. I'm, frankly, mystified why Republican leadership wants us to start here today with a series of immigration hearings that are really dog-and-pony shows.
The reason I'm mystified is, they have got some really ugly dogs and some really mangy ponies, an ugly record of not controlling our border and not providing adequate resources to our Border Patrol.
The first witness was Darryl Griffin, chief Border Patrol agent for the San Diego sector. He told the committee that a criminal cartel designed for human trafficking could easily transport terrorists, too.
Webb County, Texas, Sheriff Rick Flores agreed.
RICK FLORES, Webb County, Texas, Sheriff:
There's room for anything and anybody. So long as smugglers can get top dollar, they will turn a blind eye to any threat their cargo, human or otherwise, might pose to the safety of Americans.