EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — A GOP-only delegation of lawmakers from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday toured the South Texas border in the Rio Grande Valley, where there has been an influx in migrants entering from Mexico, and members told Border Report that they had invited Democrats from the committee but none came.
Ranking Member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, led the seven-member group from the House Judiciary Committee on the two-day tour, which wrapped up on Wednesday with a roundtable discussion. The group also took a river tour of the Rio Grande with Department of Public Safety officials, visited with U.S. Border Patrol and toured an overcrowded migrant tent processing facility in the small town of Donna.
During the hour-long roundtable discussion at the local headquarters for the National Border Patrol Council in Edinburg, the lawmakers heard from several Texas officials, including a sheriff and the director of the Texas Farm Bureau, and an organization that represents cattle ranchers and farmers to the north.
Susan Kibbe, executive director of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, which represents private ranch owners and farmers, said the surge in migrants is wreaking havoc on counties to the north where she said “we now have law enforcement, local and federal, that have told landowners that they should start carrying firearms.”
The Texans told the lawmakers that the situation is out of control and discussed farm properties being ransacked in the middle of law-enforcement chases with migrants, sometimes numbering six to eight chases per day.
Kibbe read from a memo sent from the Cotulla Independent School District southwest of San Antonio that warns parents to safeguard children because there has been “a great increase in law enforcement chases and bailouts,” during the past two months.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, told members “this surge is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and it can be controlled.”
Jackson County Sheriff A.J. “Andy” Louderback said he has “never seen it (migration) at the level we’re experiencing today. It’s by far the worst that we’ve ever had.”
“Texas sheriffs here are now inundated with a crime problem we’ve not had. This is out-of-control chaos,” Louderback said.
Before the roundtable, Louderback told Border Report that his small county of just 15,000 only has two deputies on duty each shift and many are now engaging in daily chases with migrants and with cartel members who are trafficking migrants, most headed to Houston or Dallas.
He said that in the past two weeks, there have been “two horrific crashes” in his county, in which victims were life-flighted to Houston. “Two weeks ago, I got a call from Border Patrol in Corpus Christi saying we have no more resources because they’re all coming to the Rio Grande Valley.”
“What are we going to do?” Louderback asked the lawmakers.
Using the sheriff’s words at a news conference held immediately after the roundtable discussion, Jordan said what the group has seen this week “is chaos,” and he went a step further to say that they believe it is “a deliberate action by the Biden administration” because of the changes in immigration policies that have been implemented since Democratic President Joe Biden took over at the end of January.
Among solutions offered to the group included:
- Re-implementing the Aerostat program in South Texas where giant tethered blimps with cameras that have a 25-mile range can be positioned to deter migrants and cartel activity, Kibbe said.
- Holding rapid immigration court hearings on the border to quickly ferret out those without legitimate asylum claims, Judd suggested.
And Fausto Salinas of the Hidalgo County Farm Bureau said completion of the border wall will help to fill in gaps left open in South Texas, and will help with cracks and drainage issues that he said are going unresolved as the Biden administration has put a temporary halt to all border wall construction.
On Tuesday, there were reports that the Biden administration might restart some construction to fill in gaps, but on Wednesday, Biden told several media outlets that was false and premature.
Jordan said his group certainly hopes the Biden administration will continue border wall construction, saying Border Patrol agents they met with “said we know it works. Walls work.”
That was a familiar saying that former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf often repeated during the Trump administration. Wolf was rumored to be coming with this delegation but he was unable to work it into his schedule, committee officials told Border Report.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, of Indiana, told Border Report that she was the only Republican who took part in a tour of El Paso recently and that she was hoping Democrats would join them this week in South Texas. This is her second tour of the Rio Grande Valley in the past few weeks.
“This is a national security and a humanitarian crisis,” she said.
Rep. Burgess Owens, of Utah, had perhaps the strongest language saying “this administration has no back bone.” And he demanded that Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been appointed Border Czar, come see this situation for herself.
During the roundtable, Owens broke down briefly when discribing a 7-year-old autistic girl he saw at the migrant processing facility in Donna who he said cried continuously and has been there for 17 days. DHS officials say she entered the country alone and they have no information on who to contact. Another girl could not speak, he said, because “she had been gang raped” during the journey north.
Owens said he has 15 grandchildren and “it breaks my heart” to see pods meant to hold 52 children with over 500 unaccompanied migrant children in the Donna facility. Lawmakers said there were nearly 4,000 migrants currently being held at the tent facility, which opened in early February.
“To President Biden and Vice President Harris: Get some backbone and come to the border,” Owens said.
U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, one of the Judiciary Committee’s newest members said, “The Trump administration responded well and set up policies that were working. For me all those things now in my mind that are happening are chaos.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.