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Dem senator's claim downplaying border crisis resurfaces after staffer killed by illegal immigrant

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto told MSNBC that "there's no open border," just days before a migrant arrested in connection with the death of her senior adviser illegally entered the U.S.

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., claimed that there were "no open borders," just two days before the migrant arrested in a deadly car accident that killed her adviser illegally entered into the U.S.

In a resurfaced video from March 10, 2021, a month when Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reported over 170,000 migrant encounters at the border, Cortez Masto is seen telling MSNBC that there was "a lot of misinformation" surrounding the southern border crisis.

"There's no open border," the Democrat Senator claimed. "As someone who was attorney general for eight years, my state worked very closely on the border with Mexico. There are no open borders."

Just two days later, on March 12, 2021, an illegal immigrant by the name of Elmer Rueda-Linares reportedly entered at or near the Rio Grande City, Texas, Port of Entry without inspection by an immigration official, ICE confirmed to Fox News Digital. That same migrant would go on to be arrested in connection with the death of one of Cortez Masto's own senior advisers.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT ARRESTED IN CRASH THAT KILLED DEMOCRATIC SENATOR'S ADVISER

Kurt Englehart, senior advisor to Cortez Masto, was killed in a car collision south of Downtown Reno, Nevada, on April 6, 2024. Rueda-Linares, the illegal migrant driving the vehicle that collided with Englehart, was arrested and charged with failing to stop at the scene of the accident.

HAITIAN MIGRANT, NOW A DOUBLE HOMICIDE SUSPECT, WAS ALLOWED INTO US BY BIDEN ADMIN VIA CONTROVERSIAL APP

CBP noted that encounters increased by 71 percent over February 2021 in March of that year, the same month Cortez Masto made the claim about the border.

Also that month, Fox News Digital reported that CBP agents had encountered a "large group" of illegal immigrants near Las Lomas, Texas, apprehending 134 illegal immigrants who had come to the southern border from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

When asked about the 2021 comment, a spokesperson for Cortez Masto stated that the Senator "has repeatedly pushed for additional border security funding under both the Trump and Biden administrations." Cortez Masto signed a letter in 2020 that demanded the reversal of Trump-era border policies, "condemning the Trump Administration for its harmful policies that have dismantled the United States’ asylum system."

"Senator Cortez Masto has repeatedly pushed for additional border security funding under both the Trump and Biden administrations and voted in February for the bipartisan border security package that Donald Trump and Senate Republicans refused to consider," Lauren Wodarski, spokesperson for Cortez Masto, told Fox News Digital in a statement. "To indicate otherwise is a distortion of her record."

In February 2021, Cortez Masto voted against an amendment that would prioritize "taking into custody aliens charged with a crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury."

Again in August 2021, Cortez Masto voted against establishing "a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to ensuring that the Department of Homeland Security, pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, conducts expulsions of illegal immigrants who may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, including any of the dangerous variants originating overseas, in order to protect the public health of the American People, save American lives, and assist in eradicating the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States." 

The Senator has since cosponsored pieces of legislation that seek to combat the ongoing fentanyl crisis. In 2024, Cortez Masto cosponsored the Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act "to improve border security, imposing new reporting requirements relating to border security, and enhancing criminal penalties for destroying or evading border controls," as well as signing onto the bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act with GOP Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.

Most recently, the Democrat voted to dismiss the articles of impeachment filed against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the southern border crisis.

Republicans in the House unveiled articles of impeachment against Mayorkas in January, claiming that the Biden administration secretary has "repeatedly violated laws enacted by Congress regarding immigration and border security."

"In large part because of his unlawful conduct, millions of aliens have illegally entered the United States on an annual basis with many unlawfully remaining in the United States," Republicans alleged. "Alejandro N. Mayorkas knowingly made false statements to Congress that the border is 'secure,' that the border is ‘no less secure than it was previously,’ that the border is 'closed,' and that DHS has ‘operational control’ of the border."

Cortez Masto called the impeachment inquiry a "waste of time." 

"There is no evidence that @SecMayorkas committed high crimes and misdemeanors, so I voted to end this waste of time," the Senator said in an April 17 post on X. "Republicans could have made real policy changes, but they decided to play games and killed the bipartisan border package in favor of this frivolous impeachment."

During the Senate's meeting Wednesday on the dismissal of impeachment articles against Mayrokas, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, appeared to mention the incident in which Cortez Masto's staffer was killed as an example of ramifications of the ongoing southern border crisis. 

"The consequences of our open border policy can touch all of us," Lee said. "One of our dear, respected colleagues having lost a beloved staff member in the last few days. Having lost that staff member as a consequence of the actions taken by an immigrant in this country, who was here unlawfully, who shouldn't have been here. That's a troubling thing."

Fox News' Michael Dorgan contributed to this report.

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