Rep. Grijalva Skips Out On Border Crisis Hearing In His District

February 15, 2024

By Corinne Murdock |

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-07) skipped out on a subcommittee field hearing addressing the border crisis in his district last Thursday, though the meeting occurred in his district and he serves as a ranking member in the parent committee. Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ-06) was in attendance, though he doesn’t sit on the subcommittee.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held the hearing in Sierra Vista. 

Grijalva dismissed the hearing as nothing more than an excuse to “bash the border and scapegoat immigrants,” and claimed that last week’s failed $118 billion bill setting aside 16 percent of funds for the border would have solved the border crisis. Senate Republicans blocked the bill, largely due to a majority of its funding going to Ukraine and other foreign aid initiatives.

Comparatively, Ciscomani said during his opening remarks in last Thursday’s hearing that those who had true concern for the border crisis were the ones who showed up. The subcommittee heard testimony from representatives of impacted community members and leaders.

Ciscomani blamed the crisis on the Biden administration’s “lack of desire” to enforce immigration laws. Ciscomani said that the neglect has resulted in the southern border coming under the control of foreign enemies. 

“[T]hey have more control over the area than anyone else,” said Ciscomani.

Art Del Cueto with the National Border Patrol Council affirmed Ciscomani’s assessment, noting specifically that it is the drug cartels who have control.

Ciscomani added that the border crisis numbers have only gone up: in this fiscal year, 2024, illegal immigrant encounters there in the Tucson sector have increased over 140 percent. Since President Joe Biden took office, there have been over 6.2 million illegal immigrants apprehended along the southern border; Arizona’s population is at around 7 million. The congressman said that the unrelenting torrent of illegal migration has had a negative impact on border agents’ morale. 

Other data that was shared included that over 35,000 of last year’s illegal immigrant apprehensions had prior criminal convictions or outstanding warrants for arrest, of which 170 were on the terrorist watch list. Gotaways amounted to about 1.7 million: those are the illegal immigrants observed entering the country but not apprehended. 

Further testimony shed light on the illicit drug trade aspect of the border crisis. 99 percent of illegal narcotics make it through the border without seizure. A vast majority of the fentanyl in the country comes through the southern border, with about 51 percent of all seizures occurring in Arizona. About 70,000 Americans die from fentanyl overdoses every year and now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 45. 

Sierra Vista Mayor Clea McCaa testified his town has been plagued by “extremely dangerous situations,” including constant cases of “low car drivers,” mainly teenagers, speeding and crashing at over 90 miles an hour in residential and school zones to evade police, which have resulted in at least one fatality. “Low car drivers” are individuals recruited by Mexican cartels, usually over social media, to traffic illegal immigrants, called “lows,” over the border. 

“[F]or the past three years, the trend of young people being recruited as so-called ‘low car drivers’ does pose a real threat to our residents and visitors, which fuels the narratives about the violence near the border,” said McCaa. 

McCaa supported a proposal to require social media companies to monitor for illegal solicitations of migrant trafficking.

Additionally, McCaa reported that the Cochise County Attorney’s Office has undergone a marked increase in felony case submissions: from over 300 in 2020 to nearly 600 in 2022, and over 500 last year.

Sierra Vista is about 20 miles from the border and has a population of just over 40,000. 

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels testified that bookings in his jail on border-related state crimes in 2022 and 2023 amounted to nearly 3,000 for murder, nearly 600 for smuggling, over 400 for high-risk pursuits. The bookings came at a cost of about $9.4 million: a cost borne by the locals.

“We get zero money from the federal government,” said Dannels.

Arizona Farm Bureau’s first vice president, John Boelts, said that the Biden administration has failed to protect the farmers and ranchers near the border. Boelts noted that illegal immigrant trespassers were trashing, defecating and urinating, and trampling their produce.

Boelts said that he and his fellow farmers have paid up to nearly a million dollars mitigating the damage done by the illegal immigrants. He said that the immigrants who work on the farms have been upset by the illegal migration, since they spent years and tens of thousands of dollars to migrate here legally.

“The worst part about it is, most of the folks that I mentioned in my testimony, that legally work in agricultural fields in my community, the first and second generation immigrants ask them what they think about what’s going on today – they’re appalled,” said Boelts. “They worked hard to become a part of this country, a legal part of this country.”

Jim Chilton, an elderly rancher out of Aravaca whose family has operated a ranch for nearly 140 years, provided a sampling of the 10 years worth of video evidence of illegal immigrants crossing his land, specifically 14 miles of border territory. Chilton testified that all crossers he’s witnessed have been adult males wearing uniforms of camouflage, carpet shoes, and identical plain backpacks. Chilton said that there have never been any women or children captured on his cameras over the past decade.

“Not knowing who’s crossing is a national security matter,” said Chilton. “We’ve got to secure the border at the border.”

Chilton said the crossers increased fivefold under the Biden administration compared with the Obama and Trump administrations. He said he hasn’t witnessed any border patrol agents patrolling the known border entrance trails near him in the past four months. 

Chilton reported that he personally spends at least $60,000 a year now to mitigate the damage by illegal immigrants. He also expressed concern that his cowboys and family were at risk of violence from illegal immigrants evading law enforcement.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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