EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Members of the House Border Security Caucus will be in El Paso on Monday to visit migrant processing facilities and tour a portion of the border wall.
The visit comes as Department of Homeland Security data shows a continued increase in migrant encounters at the southern border. U.S. immigration authorities in March took 172,348 unauthorized migrants into custody, while in April the total rose to 178,622.
U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, will lead the delegation. U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, who represents a portion of El Paso, said there’s an urgency to find solutions to the surge while being fair to asylum-seekers and keeping the border safe from smugglers.
“For the people that live and work on the border it’s come to a point that they’re done with the finger pointing and want solutions,” said Gonzales, who’s co-sponsoring the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act with U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. The act “takes Border Patrol agents out of the processing business and puts them back on the field. Over 40 percent of agents are in processing centers now. They don’t want to do that. They want to be back on the field keeping us safe.”
Caucus members will be joined by leaders of the National Border Patrol Council during their visit to the Fort Bliss Emergency Intake Site, the Central Processing Center, the wall and one of the ports of entry between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.
Nearly three quarters of a million people have come across the border without authorization since Oct. 1. Of those, 526,793 have been expelled to Mexico under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 order to prevent cross-border spread of COVID-19.
That’s left more than 200,000 migrants – including children — in-country and into a U.S. immigration court system already overburdened with work where it takes years for asylum claims to be determined.
Gonzales is calling for the hiring of at least 150 new immigration judges. “It’s unfair for someone to get their case heard in two years. It should be much faster than that. And unaccompanied children, right now, once they’re processed by Homeland Security and go to their sponsor, they’re essentially forgotten. That’s unacceptable,” Gonzales said.
The future of Title 42 is also beginning to raise concerns among House members as COVID-19 vaccination rates soar in the United States and restrictions begin to be lifted. On Tuesday, a top Mexican official says his country wants to rollback border travel restrictions beginning June 22. Gonzales worries that doing away with Title 42 now will only encourage more migrants to come.
“The numbers right now are astronomical. It’s gone beyond a breaking point. If the Biden administration does away with Title 42 and lets in all the families, you’re going to see the floodgates open up,” he said.
Gonzales said Americans have strong feelings on illegal immigration and are increasingly becoming aware of the role being played by transnational criminal organizations in the surge, particularly the smuggling of young children.
He highlighted a recent case in Quemado, Texas, where a rancher found five abandoned migrant girls near the Rio Grande hungry and crying.
“On Mother’s Day weekend of all days, we have these five young girls, babies essentially, abandoned in a ranch in Texas,” he said. “An 11-month-old baby doesn’t arrive here alone.”
Earlier, in the El Paso Sector, smugglers dropped a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old Ecuadorian girl over the border wall at Sunland Park, New Mexico as security cameras documented how they abandoned them and ran back to Mexico. Drug cartels are known to have taken over influence over migrant smuggling, and two drug gangs, the Sinaloa cartel and La Linea, operate in the area where the girls were dropped.
Gonzales said those are stories and situations House members and President Biden have to come see first-hand on the border. “It’s time we need to act and solve these problems,” he said.