Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea visited the U.S. southern border this week, telling Fox News Digital that the migrant crisis is “overwhelming” authorities — as the border remains a top issue ahead of the upcoming midterm elections and as O’Dea calls for a “comprehensive” solution
O’Dea, who is looking to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, was in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in Texas where he toured the border with the Brooks County Sheriff’s Department.
He said the message from law enforcement was loud and clear.
“They all have the same consistent message. They’re overwhelmed. You know, bottom line is that they’re not receiving enough funding to handle what’s going on,” he said.
O’Dea, a Denver-area construction company owner and first-time candidate, is challenging Bennet, a former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools who has held the Senate seat in Colorado since 2009, in a race that once was considered safely in the Democrats’ favor but which could lead to an upset and be decisive for which party wins control of the Senate.
Border Patrol agents have made more than 2.3 million migrant encounters in fiscal year 2022, with more than 227,000 in September alone. That’s on top of the more than 1.7 million encounters in FY 2021.
O’Dea praised the work law enforcement are doing, but said they were low on money in particular.
“They get their heads down, they grind, and they’re trying to do the best they can,” he said.
Republicans have been hammering the Biden administration on border security — even candidates and lawmakers who are not in border states — warning that the effects of illegal migration and drug smuggling are felt across the country.
“We’re all border states now,” O’Dea said. “We’ve got the drugs, the methamphetamine, the fentanyl coming straight up I-25 into Colorado for those drugs that get through the border down here.”
He said that nearly 1,900 Coloradans died last year from drug overdoses.
“Talking to the law enforcement in Colorado, they’re overwhelmed. They need help at the border. We’ve got to choke down the supply on this fentanyl, on methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, all of that. They need help with the supply and so we’ve got to get this border under control and restore some law and order,” he said.
O’Dea echoed similar criticism of Democrats, including of Biden and Bennet, that Republicans have put at the feet of the administration and their political rivals.
“They’re doing nothing,” O’Dea said, dismissing claims by top administration officials that the border is “secure.”
“And that’s the reason I came down, is because they look at this. This is a humanitarian crisis. We can do better than that.”
O’Dea is one of a number of Republicans hoping to win races that could shift the Senate into Republican control. O’Dea is hoping that, if he goes to Washington in 2023, he will be able to help break the deadlock that surrounds border security and immigration.
Republicans have been pushing for stronger border security, while Democrats have been focused on expanded legal pathways as well as citizenship for those in the country illegally. Efforts to enact significant legislation have stalled in part due to the 50-50 split in the Senate.
O’Dea says he wants a “comprehensive” solution negotiated by both Democrats and Republicans — but he prioritizes border security.
“We need to secure the border, number one. We’ve got to get this under control. But at the same time, we’ve got to make it more predictable for people to get their citizenship and come here. And that’s going to take sitting down with both parties and discussing how do we do that in a humanitarian way where we address both issues at the same time,” he said.
Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have pushed a deal that would see border security measures put in place in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for the recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — an Obama-era program that granted deportation protection to illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.
That policy was recently found to be illegal by an appeals court, and since then there has been a fresh push to give a permanent legal status to those protected temporarily under the program.
“We’ve got DACA kids that are here through no fault of their own. They should receive their citizenship, let’s get them moving. But, then we got to open up the broader conversation and figure out, how do you solve this? And if you don’t have a predictable way to come here, then you’re going to continue to have this border run by the cartels,” he said.
Fox News’ Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report.