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U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, a Marion Republican representing Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, has had several recent tweets about security at the U.S. border with Mexico.
A May 10 fundraising video on Twitter includes a half-dozen sound-bites from Hinson, all about border security. In one, Hinson says “Why haven’t you been to the border, President Biden? Why hasn’t Vice President Harris been to the border?”
Although Hinson represents a state not on the U.S. border, she said in the video montage she cares because of drugs coming from Mexico to Iowa.
“They’re (drug cartels) sending their dangerous drugs, fentanyl, up into states like mine, to Iowa,” she said.
The Fact Checker is checking whether President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have visited the U.S. border region since Biden came into office Jan. 20. We’ll also dig into whether there’s been an increase in drugs coming into the United States from Mexico in recent months.
Claim 1: Each time Biden leaves Washington, D.C. — even when he goes home to Wilmington, Del. — his travel is tracked. So far, he’s also made stops in Louisiana, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Feb. 26 trip to Houston — not on the border with Mexico — involved surveying damage caused by the Feb. 13-17 ice storm.
Biden told reporters March 21 he plans to visit the border “at some point.”
In March, Biden put Harris in charge of working with Central American countries Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to try to address problems pushing migrants to come to the United States. More than 170,000 migrants were apprehended at the border in April, NPR reported. The United States is turning most away, but a growing number is being allowed into the country to seek asylum.
Harris has not yet visited the southern border, either, which has garnered her criticism from Republicans like Hinson and also some of Harris’ fellow Democrats. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told PBS that Harris should “of course” go to the area, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Harris said April 27 she planned to visit Guatemala in June, Fox News reported. In that same segment, Harris is shown in a CNN interview saying they are “working on a plan” for her to visit the border with Mexico as soon as they can hammer out “COVID issues.” When a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on April 26 what issues Harris was referring to, Psaki said she’d have to ask Harris’ staff.
“Her focus is not on the border, it’s about addressing the root causes in the Northern Triangle,” Psaki said, referring to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Republicans are eager to pin recent immigration challenges on Biden’s administration, although waves of migrants also came to the border during the terms of former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Obama visited El Paso, Texas, on May 10, 2011, and was within sight of the U.S.-Mexico border, PolitiFact reported in 2015. When migrants surged in 2014, Obama changed plans during a planned Texas trip to meet in Dallas with then-Gov. Rick Perry to talk about the crisis, but did not visit the border then.
Trump visited the border several times during his presidency, usually to see the border wall he had ordered to be built.
Claim 2: Hinson says in her video that Biden administration’s policies have emboldened drug cartels to push more drugs into the United States. We can’t check the cartels’ motivation, but we can look at the law enforcement trends.
The opioid fentanyl has been a growing problem in the United States since at least 2014, with reports of the drug rising every year, according to the 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. States with the largest amount of fentanyl seized in 2019 were clustered along the southern border or were located in the Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes or Northeast areas, the DEA reported.
While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted some drug-trafficking patterns, according to the report, they appear to have resumed.
“Through our partnerships with Federal law enforcement agencies as well as cases that we have worked in Iowa, we have been able to identify different narcotics (Methamphetamine, Heroin, Fentanyl) originating in Mexico,” said Jessie Whitmer, special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement. “Narcotics in general have shown an increase since January.”
Hinson is right that Biden and Harris haven’t been to visit the border region since they came into office.
She’s also right about dangerous drugs, including fentanyl, coming up from Mexico into the United States. The trafficking of these drugs — fentanyl in particular — has been increasing for several years, well before Biden took office. But Iowa law enforcement officers have confirmed a rise since January.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Biden’s policies have “emboldened the cartels” as Hinson claims. The increase in trafficking since January could be because that’s when more people could get the COVID-19 vaccine, which has led to more travel. While Hinson makes some implications that can’t be measured, the two claims we checked are accurate. She gets an A.
The Fact Checker team checks statements made by an Iowa political candidate/officeholder or a national candidate/officeholder about Iowa, or in ads that appear in our market.
Claims must be independently verifiable.
We give statements grades from A to F based on accuracy and context.
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This Fact Checker was researched and written by Erin Jordan of The Gazette.