Sen. Hagerty joins Jacobs to share updates on U.S.-Mexico border visit, decry Biden

Sen. Bill Hagerty defended his vote on a border reform bill and excoriated the Biden administration as he joined Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and other Tennessee officials to share updates on their recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hagerty and a group of Tennessee mayors, sheriffs and district attorneys traveled to Eagle Pass, Texas, on Feb. 20 to see firsthand how record numbers of illegal crossings have strained Texas law enforcement as Gov. Bill Lee plans to deploy Tennessee National Guard members to the border.

Before friends and supporters at Chesapeake's in West Knoxville on Feb. 23, Hagerty said a bipartisan Senate bill earlier this month that would have tightened border security while providing additional funding to Ukraine in its war against Russia was insufficient.

Former president and Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump criticized the bill and lobbied his allies in Congress to vote against it.

"It was just a show vote so certain Democrats that were worried about where they might be on Election Day could come and say they voted for a bill that was never going to see the light of day," Hagerty said.

The border town of Eagle Pass soon will be home to a 2,300-bed military base for National Guard members sent from across the U.S., Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week.

After visiting the border earlier this month, Lee said two new waves of National Guard members would ship out in the coming weeks. A unit of over 125 Tennessee soldiers deployed to McAllen, Texas, last October to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a year. Hagerty said the next unit would be deploying soon.

"The Tennessee National Guard is going to arrive this weekend," Hagerty said. "We're going to demonstrate at point after point after point that if you enforce the law, you can bring this to an end, but you've got to do it across the entire border."

The Biden administration is considering an executive action that would limit those who cross the border illegally from seeking asylum, which would mirror a similar effort by Trump that was blocked by the courts in 2018, CNN reported.

Drug overdoses bring border problems home

U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaks to friends and supporters about his recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty speaks to friends and supporters about his recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.

About 93% of fentanyl smuggled across the border is brought through legal points of entry and not through illegal entry routes, according to a report from the libertarian think tank Cato Institute using data from Customs and Border Enforcement.

Eagle Pass is over 1,000 miles away from Knoxville, but Hagerty said drug trafficking there, particularly of fentanyl, threatens the lives of Tennesseans. Hagerty said he took sheriffs and district attorneys to the border so they would see part of the root of the drug problem.

Overdose deaths in Tennessee reached 3,826 in 2022, and 1,129 of those deaths were fatal fentanyl overdoses in East Tennessee, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Health this week.

Hagerty expressed support for the controversial 287(g) program, a partnership between Knox County law enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that allows local law enforcement to initiate deportation proceedings. Those who hope to shut down the program say it sows distrust of police in the local immigrant community and leads to arrests of people living here illegally and then deported, disrupting families.

Daniel Dassow is a growth and development reporter focused on technology and energy. Phone 423-637-0878. Email

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This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Hagerty connects U.S.-Mexico border visit to Tennessee overdose deaths