RMSP members visit U.S.-Mexico border amid ongoing crisis
EL PASO, TX -- Six members of the Republican Main Street Partnership toured the area May 21 on a fact-finding trip to see the impact of the growing crisis at the United States-Mexico border.
(L-R): Pete Stauber (foreground) Andrew Garbarino, Tony Gonzales, David Valadao, Dan Newhouse, Don Bacon
Reps. Don Bacon (NE-02), Andrew Garbarino (NY-02), Dan Newhouse (WA-04). Pete Stauber (MN-08), and David Valadao (CA-21) and their chiefs of staff joined host Rep. Tony Gonzales (TX-23) and RMSP CEO Sarah Chamberlain for a roundtable discussion at a pecan farm with local ranchers and farmers; a visit to an unaccompanied-minor facility; tours of the El Paso Central Processing Center and the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry; and a briefing with Customs and Border Patrol agents.
"The rise in illegal border crossings has put an incredible amount of stress on our farmers & ranchers," Gonzales said. "I [was pleased to bring] a delegation of my colleagues to Tornillo yesterday so our farmers could share some of their powerful stories with other members of Congress."
Here are some of their reflections from their day, starting with their thoughts about the entire day:
Reflections on What They Saw
Stauber: What's going on at the border is a humanitarian crisis and a national security concern that cannot continue to be ignored by the Biden Administration.
Bacon: We have a crisis at the border. There has been 170,000+ illegal crossings per month, record high number of unaccompanied minors, and an increase in drug smuggling and human trafficking. I urge President Biden to take immediate action and secure our border.
Garbarino: I came to the border to see the conditions here for myself so I could make informed decisions for my constituents. What I saw confirmed that our border is not equipped to keep out dangerous criminals like those that feed the MS-13 gang that plagues my district.
Newhouse: There is no doubt about it, there is a crisis at our southern border. This Administration’s attempts to sweep it under the rug are harming our citizens, law enforcement officers, and the hundreds of thousands of migrants coming across the border – while emboldening the drug cartels to be even more blatant in their trafficking operations. Our border is neither secure nor safe, and President Biden and his ‘border czar’ must take action now to change that.
Valadao: Under President Biden, illegal border crossings have skyrocketed. In April alone, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol encountered over 170,000 individuals at the southwest border - the most we’ve seen in a single month in over 20 years. Heroin and fentanyl smuggling has increased dramatically, and the rate of unaccompanied minors making the dangerous trek across our border is heartbreaking. Not only is this a humanitarian crisis, this is a national security disaster. By refusing to enforce immigration laws, President Biden is sending a dangerous message that our border is open for business to cartels and encourages people to put themselves in harm’s way to cross our border.
First Stop: Visit to a 4th Generation Pecan Farm in Tornilla, TX, with Ranchers and Farmers:
Stauber: The farmers we met shared concerns over the safety of their families and homes, the destruction of crops, and theft of property. They also shared heart-wrenching stories of helping migrants in need.
Garbarino: I heard devastating stories of the humanitarian crisis here and the damage illegal crossings have caused to farmers’ fields and equipment. Biden’s Border Crisis is bad for migrants and border communities. We must secure our border!
Bacon: Farmers on the border shared how cartels are running all the human and drug trafficking on South side of border. The new border policies have enriched the cartels and over a third of women to include underaged girls are being sexually abused in the process.
Newhouse: As a farmer, it’s hard to imagine not being able to walk through your orchards or fields without carrying a weapon. But down in El Paso, that’s the reality facing these men and women because of the daily threat they face from the drug cartels passing through. For them, the best thing to happen for their safety was building a border fence, and they’ve made it clear that finishing our wall is not just a priority, it’s a necessity.
Tour of Unaccompanied Minor Facility and Central Processing Center
Bacon: The “Trail House” opened last year and subcontracted as part of HHS. They’ve taken care of approximately 500 children abandoned at the border. Many have suffered trauma. The staff try to find families to connect them with or eventually foster care.
Valadao: I had the opportunity to speak with children currently here to better understand the conditions and their everyday experience in these facilities.
Newhouse: We need to stop incentivizing cartels from the massive amount of drug and human trafficking they are currently conducting. Children are being smuggled across the border by these cartels, with no agency or say in the matter. More fentanyl has been seized in the first four months of this year than in all of 2020 and the number of unaccompanied minors has already doubled since FY20. This is trafficking and abuse spurred on by this Administration’s policies, and we need to take action now to stop this crisis.
Paso Del Norte Port of Entry Tour with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency
Newhouse: Our law enforcement officers are working as hard as they can to mitigate this ongoing crisis, but they have made it crystal clear that should the Biden Administration revoke their Title 42 privileges as they’ve indicated, they will no longer be able to process migrants in the field and will be forced to bring them into the country for processing. Thousands of migrants are waiting for this to happen, and according to our officers, will completely overwhelm our facilities within 2-3 days. That is unacceptable.
Stauber: Migrants are now coming in at a far higher rate because this Administration rolled back the Remain in Mexico policy/MPP program. Law enforcement at the border are working hard and need more resources and technology!
Custom and Borders Protection Briefing
Newhouse: I spent a lot of time with our CBP agents, and hearing their experiences firsthand only highlights our need to take this crisis seriously. At night, hundreds of migrants are crossing through sections of the border that are older and in dire need of replacement, and they simply cannot keep up. To make matters worse, we have the materials to replace these porous zones, but the Biden Administration has halted all construction at the border. This is petty, partisan politics and is needlessly putting our officers and citizens at risk.
Stauber: The border wall was being built in January until it was halted by Biden. I am standing next to wall components that are just sitting idle. Replacement of certain portions of the existing wall are also needed as there are obvious openings where migrants can crawl through. Where the wall ends, a daily average of 600-900 people cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States. President Biden must take action and finish the border wall.
Bacon: The Administration announced US would NOT return unaccompanied children, so now parents are sending them over by themselves. We incentivized it. Now, about 90 unaccompanied children cross in El Paso sector every day, paying human traffickers. This is a primary crossing point. (photo)
Garbarino: From technology and infrastructure to appropriate screenings, we must ensure border officials and law enforcement like @CPB are given the resources they need.
The Republican Main Street Partnership wants to thank Rep. Tony Gonzales (TX-23) and Chief of Staff Casey Contres and the rest of their team for hosting this tour – and many others for members of Congress. After a long day on Friday, Tony and Casey gave fellow RMSP member Rep. Randy Feenstra his own tour the next day!