5 takeaways from our trip to the border
By Sarah Chamberlain
Fourteen of RMSP’s House members recently returned from a trip to the border where they saw a humanitarian and national security crisis caused by the Biden Administration's failure to enforce our immigration laws.
The delegation of Republican representatives included host Tony Gonzales (TX-23), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Ken Calvert (CA-42), John Curtis (UT-03), Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), Carlos Gimenez (FL-26), Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Chris Jacobs (NY-27), Young Kim (CA-39), Peter Meijer (MI-03), Carol Miller (WV-03), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-02), John Rutherford (FL-04), and David Valadao (CA-21).
“Every state is a border state when it comes to the ramifications of the border crisis,” Rep. Garbarino told me after the trip. “More than 1,000 migrants per day evade capture by border patrol and are in this country unvetted – and that’s just the ones we know about. In Fiscal Year 2021, the border patrol released nearly 250,000 migrants freely into the United States. It’s no coincidence that MS-13, whose violence plagues my Long Island district, was the number one gang affiliation apprehended last year. Migrants may enter Del Rio, but they don’t stay there. They disperse throughout the country bringing with them crime, drugs, and a strain on the resources of communities far north of the border.”
Here are some of the group’s takeaways:
1. Morale among Border Patrol officers is alarmingly low. Rep. Calvert was concerned that Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) agents cannot effectively do their jobs, because they are understaffed and stuck processing much of the time. The individual stories we heard during the trip will stick with us for a long time.
2. The border needs more resources. This goes beyond understaffing to a combination of a physical structure, manpower, and even the lack of COVID-19 testing. Rep. Huizenga said, “Congress and the Administration should prioritize CBP funding, so our [agents] are properly staffed, trained, and equipped with the tools necessary to do their jobs successfully.” Rep. Miller agreed: “We must invest in advanced technologies to ensure CBP can effectively surveil our border and apprehend those who attempt to cross illegally.”
3. The Biden Administration should not abandon Title 42, but it should stop its catastrophic Catch and Release program. The courts are allowing the use of the Title 42 public-health policy to expel migrant families at the southern border, a strategy introduced by the Trump Administration. “If this action isn’t sustained, the record number of illegal border crossings will rise even further and strain systems at all levels of government,” Rep. Huizenga said. As for Catch and Release, there were nearly 1.6 million backlogged immigration court cases at the end of 2021. The average wait for a hearing is more than three years, and the government can’t keep track of where released aliens are for that many years.
4. We need a greater emphasis in Congress on human trafficking. We were stunned to learn that $24 million per week is generated from illicit human trafficking in the Del Rio sector alone. Rep. Kim has launched a human trafficking task force in her southern California district, which saw 56 human trafficking arrests during Super Bowl Week. We need to expand on those efforts.
5. The Biden Administration needs to be more transparent about the border. “The Republican party has called for more transparency on everything from the debacle in Afghanistan to what is occurring in Ukraine, the inflation numbers, to border security. They need to let the truth be known” about what’s happening here, Rep. Gonzales said, complaining that members of Congress need to ask “specifically worded questions if we want to get answers from the Biden Administration.”
We were troubled by the President and Vice President preferences to only get briefings from their staff. The Vice President’s only visit to the border was last June. The President was 500 miles away on March 7 but couldn’t take the time for a side trip.
We also agreed that what’s going on in Ukraine can’t distract us from the border.
“While the majority of our attention is rightfully focused on Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, we should also be paying attention to the crisis at our own border,” says Rep. Miller-Meeks. “We are seeing record high encounters, drug seizures, and illegal crossings as we approach spring when migration historically increases.”
We walked away convinced that legal immigration is the only way people should come to the United States. Rep. Kim, an immigrant herself, says, “Our country must continue to be a beacon of hope and opportunity for people around the world. This trip reinforced my view that our immigration system is broken and in dire need of reform.”
Rep. Miller agreed: “Those who attempt to circumvent the system and enter illegally must be held accountable. Anyone can choose to pursue the American dream, but they must do so in a legal way.”
Rep. Valadao echoed the view of the entire group during the trip when he said, “I appreciated the opportunity to learn from Border Patrol Agents and community leaders about the challenges they are facing at the border. We need to take action to stop the flow of illegal drugs and pursue meaningful immigration reform to keep our border secure and communities safe.”