House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claims open border fueled plot to kill George W. Bush

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U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and members of Ohio's congressional delegation participate in a round table discussion about the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday at Rhodes Center in Columbus.
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and members of Ohio's congressional delegation participate in a round table discussion about the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday at Rhodes Center in Columbus.

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy assailed President Joe Biden during a visit to Columbus on Tuesday, arguing the administration's immigration policy has allowed fentanyl and other dangerous drugs to flood Ohio.

The California Republican participated in a round table discussion on the U.S.-Mexico border with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, local officials and GOP members of Ohio's congressional delegation. McCarthy's visit came days after a federal judge blocked Biden's plan to end Title 42, a Trump-era policy that expels migrants to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Tuesday's event also followed revelations that an Iraqi man living in Columbus is accused of plotting to smuggle ISIS operatives over the border to kill former President George W. Bush.

"You know how they were going to come into America?" McCarthy said. "Through the southern border, because it's wide open."

Ohio Republicans have sounded the alarm over border security as the state contends with addiction, overdose deaths and large seizures of drugs. They say a wall, coupled with more agents to patrol the border and comb through shipments, will keep drugs from reaching Ohio.

Still, some experts say suppliers would likely adapt to security changes and contend officials should instead invest more resources into curbing the demand for drugs.

Ohio is a border state, Republicans argue

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,204 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2020, with Black men dying at a higher rate than any other group. A 2019 report from the Ohio Department of Health indicated that fentanyl was involved in more than three-quarters of overdose deaths, and psychostimulants such as methamphetamine killed more people than heroin.

Two Ohio State University students died after overdosing earlier this month. Police have not confirmed what substance was involved, but Columbus Public Health issued a warning about pills that look like Adderall but are actually laced with fentanyl.

"(They) did not think they were buying fentanyl," McCarthy said. "I don't believe they would've bought fentanyl. Did not know that they were buying something to help them study that killed them."

No Democrats attended Tuesday's event. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican J.D. Vance, has said it's reckless to lift Title 42 without a plan in place, according to CNN.

But many Democratic leaders and advocates contend GOP policy positions are fueling anti-immigrant sentiment.

Vance came under fire for claiming that Democrats are letting immigrants come into the United States so they can replace current voters and win elections – an extension of the great replacement theory, according to experts. Separately, the ACLU of Ohio criticized a proposed constitutional amendment in Ohio to prohibit non-U.S. citizens from voting in local elections.

Yost, who is among a group of attorneys general suing to keep Title 42 in place, said Tuesday that chaos at the border is fueling lawlessness that bleeds into states like Ohio.

"This is not an anti-immigrant thing," he said. "This is a basic security issue."

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Kevin McCarthy blasts Biden on border security during Columbus visit