MISSION, Texas (Border Report) — On Friday, two more Republican-led congressional delegations descended upon the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas where there is an influx in unaccompanied migrant youth and families. Once again, both groups characterized it as a “crisis” of disproportionate means and laid the blame on the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
They also — as several other previous Republican-led delegations have done who have also come to tour the Rio Grande Valley — challenged President Joe Biden and especially his Border Czar, Vice President Kamala Harris, to come to the border to witness the situation first-hand.
House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, led a group of 10 lawmakers who conducted a two-day tour of the border region. It included a visit to an overcrowded migrant processing tent facility, discussions with Border Patrol leaders and a visit to the border wall. They concluded with a boat tour on the Rio Grande at Anzalduas Park in Mission, Texas, by Department of Public Safety officials, after which the lawmakers held a news conference.
That news conference was followed just two hours later by another news conference by a different group of Republican-led congressional lawmakers at the same park on the banks of the Rio Grande overlooking Reynosa, Mexico. The second delegation all had health care backgrounds and had also toured the migrant processing facility in the small town of Donna, Texas, and met with local border law enforcement officials and other stops throughout the Rio Grande Valley.
The resounding theme that both groups concluded on Friday to media was the Biden administration is denying this is a “crisis” and “burying their head in the sand” and must “step up” and implement meaningful changes to immigration policies in order to deter migrants from illegally crossing the Southwest border from Mexico into the United States during this ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
This seems to be a common theme echoed by GOP lawmakers who have, by far, come in higher numbers than Democrats recently to tour the area and to hold news conferences chastising President Joe Biden’s administration for policy changes implemented in late January after he took office, which they blame for the surge.
And, most seem to prefer to hold their news conferences at Anzalduas Park, whether or not they take a boat tour.
Scalise said his group on Thursday night witnessed over 100 migrant children and families just “giving themselves up” to Border Patrol agents just a few miles from the park minutes after crossing the muddy border.
“As I was standing there in less than an hour we were seeing group after group coming across,” Scalise said.
Members of the first delegation said that they were told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials that 10% of the over 4,000 people in the Donna facility “are positive for COVID-19.”
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, of Texas, who was part of the Friday group, said he was told by CBP officials that they were angry that during a brief visit on Thursday by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “he didn’t even leave the (airplane) hangar.” He said he was told by CBP officials that they were upset that Mayorkas — who first toured El Paso and then flew to McAllen that same morning — only spent “a few minutes” talking with federal border agents and did not tour the Donna facility.
Mayorkas has toured the Donna processing facility on recent visits to the region but he has not spoken with media. Only very limited media have been allowed to enter the facility.
On Friday, Mayorkas released a statement pertaining to funding requested by the Biden administration for priorities for fiscal year 2022 discretionary spending, which included money for the Southwest border situation. He said, if approved, the funds for DHS would include “repairing a broken immigration system, (and) better managing the border with advanced technology.”
The discretionary budget funding request proposes adding $861 million over four years to be invested in Central America, and $345 million for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to adjudicate naturalization and asylum cases of those who have been waiting for years. It would boost the budget of the Executive Office for Immigration Review by 21 percent to $891 million to help reduce immigration court backlogs through 100 new immigration judges and support teams, according to U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from South Texas who is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.
The discretionary funding proposal came a few weeks after President Joe Biden promised he wanted to sink more money into Central America to get at the root causes of the immigration surge. “The way to deal with this problem — and I started to deal with it back when I was a United States senator — I mean, Vice President — putting together a bipartisan plan of over $700 million to deal with the root causes of why people are leaving,” Biden said during a March 25 news conference.
During that news conference, Biden promised to work across the aisle with Republicans on meaningful immigration reform.
“I’m ready to work with any Republican who wants to help solve the problem and make the situation better,” Biden said.
Nevertheless, most of the delegation tours coming to South Texas are partisan, very few have had both Democrats and Republicans together.
On Wednesday, another all-GOP delegation from the House Judiciary Committee toured the region and afterward held a news conference accusing the Biden administration of not doing enough to rectify the situation.
They also questioned why Aerostat blimp high-tech camera technology has been halted by the Biden administration in the Rio Grande Valley. During a roundtable discussion held in the town of Edinburg, Texas, with local ranchers and leaders, they were told the technology helped to thwart cartel and human trafficking in South Texas.
“I’ve seen this movie before in 2014 and 2019, but what I saw today was the worst humanitarian crisis on the border in my professional career to see these family units and children blindly walking down a path last night, crossing the river,” McCaul said on Friday. “This is wrong and I’d call it a form of child abuse and it didn’t have to happen.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday accused Health and Human Services of allowing the abuse of unaccompanied migrant children at a holding facility in San Antonio.
On Friday, Abbott sent a letter to Harris demanding that the facility be shut down.
On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat whose hometown is McAllen, here in the Rio Grande Valley, was slated to begin showing around yet another congressional delegation. This one consists of both Republicans and Democrats, his office said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.