“We have locks on our front doors, we have locks on our bedrooms, there are plenty of locks around our home. But we will argue, we will sling mud, we will be divisive about putting locks on the front door of our country, and that makes no sense to me.”
That was how veteran Border Patrol Agent Chris T. Clem framed the debate over border security at last week’s “Pints & Policy” in Manchester, hosted by the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF) in Manchester. Clem was named the Yuma, Ariz. Sector’s Chief Patrol Agent in 2020.
On Sunday came news from Customs and Border Protection that September set a new record for migrant crossings at the southern border as agents recorded more than 260,000 encounters in a single month. That is equal to the populations of Manchester, Nashua, and Concord combined.
The previous record was set last December when CBP officials reported 252,320 migrant encounters. It brought the total for fiscal year 2023 to nearly 2.5 million — also a record.
The focus of the discussion, led by AFP Foundation’s Immigration Policy Fellow Jordan Fischetti, was addressing the nation’s border security policies, as well as the systemic issues with the U.S. immigration system.
“I like to refer to this as ‘tall fences and wide gates,’” Clem said. “‘Tall fences,’ metaphorically speaking, is about the border security piece. ‘Wide gates’ means the lawful pathways that are legal ports of entry where people should be coming in. Having lived the majority of my adult life on the Southwest border, I can tell you that a secure border is a safe and healthy border.
“We’re currently averaging about nine to ten thousand arrests a day right now; that’s how it’s been going on the last week or so,” Clem continued. “We have woken up, just about every morning on the Southwest border, nearly 20,000 people in custody.”
“To come to the United States legally is really difficult,” Fischetti said. “For a lot of people, you have to wait in line until you die.”
Clem, who had nearly 28 years of Border Patrol experience before retiring earlier this year, rejected White House claims that today’s border chaos is part of an ongoing problem that has remained largely unchanged since Joe Biden took office.
“I worked for five administrations. Every administration — every administration — made progress,” he said. “Every administration did something on the security side of it. Until we got to this one.”
Clem also told the Manchester crowd that open borders have become a local problem in the Granite State.
“There’s been just over 8,600 arrests this fiscal year on the northern border,” Clem said. “With Detroit, Buffalo, Swanton, and Houlton — the larger sectors over the eastern half in your area — just shy of 7,000 of those arrests. So, the lion’s share is happening over here. And actually, the lion’s share of the northern border, with just over six thousand arrests themselves, is here in Swanton — and that controls a lot of the area here in New Hampshire.”
Earlier this month, Chief Patrol Agent Robert Garcia of the United States Border Patrol’s Swanton Sector announced a surge in apprehensions across the country’s northern border, including between New Hampshire and Canada.
According to Garcia’s post, “Over 6,100 apprehensions from 76 different countries in just 11 months, surpassing the last 10 years combined. Swanton Sector Agents are resolute and determined to hold the line across our 295 miles of border in northeastern New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.”
Talking with NHJournal after the discussion, Clem outlined the many reasons why New Hampshire voters should care about border security, whether it is at the southern or northern borders.
“Without a secure border, every state becomes a border state, every town becomes a border town, whether it’s illegal entries or narcotic smuggling,” Clem told NHJournal. He also highlighted two issues impacting the Granite State: fentanyl and diverting border resources. “The fentanyl that’s coming through, that’s winding up in Massachusetts, that’s being smuggled in from our southern border (most of it), and it’s winding up here because drug smugglers know that there’s a need for it over here,” he explained.
Talking about solutions to the crises, Clem emphasized that voters and policymakers need to understand the difference between “closing” the border and “securing” the border.
“Secure border is securing that border between the ports of entry,” he explained. “That’s putting the infrastructure, whether it’s wall and roads and technology or infrastructure technology, in the right place. We know where that needs to happen.”
He continued, “Closing the border, locking it down, that’s your ports of entry…. I’m advocating for securing the border between the ports of entry so we funnel everything through the front door.”