U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY 2nd District) visited Leitchfield Wednesday to meet with local officials.

In an interview with Grayson County News on Wednesday afternoon, Guthrie said Grayson County Judge Executive Kevin Henderson and representatives from the cities of Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Caneyville had sought clarification on the funding their respective governments had received from the American Rescue Plan Act, specifically regarding how it can be used.

According to Guthrie, this has been an issue for many local governments as language in the bill is “vague,” and there has been little to no official interpretation of the bill by the secretary of the treasury, so Grayson County officials wanted to ensure they were using funds appropriately.

Guthrie also discussed his visit to the U.S./Mexico border in El Paso, Texas on Tuesday, where he received a briefing on the drug cartels in Mexico, as well as viewed the facilities where migrants are detained.

Guthrie said the situation at the border has created “a human tragedy.”

In early 2021, the Biden administration had sought to terminate the Trump administration’s “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP) — often called the “Remain in Mexico” program — and continues to work to do so but recently reinstated it upon court order.

Under MPP, individuals who arrived at the U.S.’s southern border seeking asylum and passed a credible fear screening were given notices to appear in immigration court and were sent back to Mexico.

Critics, such as Justice For Immigrants, an initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, have said the Remain in Mexico policy endangers asylum seekers by making them wait for court hearings in unsafe circumstances despite showing they have a credible fear of persecution.

Guthrie said that, by ending this policy, the border and Department of Homeland Security became “overwhelmed” with migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., and, as a result, drug cartels have begun mixing drug smugglers among migrant families and human trafficking rates have increased.

According to Guthrie, illicit fentanyl produced in China has begun being shipped into the U.S. from Mexico, as well as crystal methamphetamine, and fentanyl, in particular, is difficult to detect because an amount equivalent to a brick of cocaine “can be placed in a water bottle,” making the drug easier to smuggle, more profitable, and dangerous.

Guthrie said he has been told by border patrol that a completed border wall — while not impregnable — would be enough of a deterrent to slow down this process, so he supports its completion, as well putting an end to policies that, while done out of compassion, inadvertently incentivize these activities.

Guthrie, the ranking Republican on the House of Representatives healthcare subcommittee, also said one of his goals for the 2022 Congressional session will be to make derivatives of fentanyl illegal.

Guthrie also detailed the work his office has been doing with FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts in Kentucky following December’s tornadoes.

While many counties have already received disaster declarations, qualifying individuals for assistance, Guthrie said his office is aware that Grayson County underwent storm damage as well, so his office, as well as those of Kentucky’s senators, are working to request President Joe Biden declare this part of the state a disaster area as well.

Lastly, Guthrie addressed the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

He said that, while he believes getting vaccinated “should be everybody’s choice,” he continually tries share the science about the vaccines, and, when comparing the single-digit statistics of individuals proven to be negatively affected by the vaccines versus the effects of COVID-19, he encourages them.

Guthrie said, on a personal level, COVID-19 has run through his family, and those members who were vaccinated had less severe symptoms.

But, he also said that, in addition to vaccines, the U.S. also needs to be able to provide more testing and therapeutic options.

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