EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Members of the House Border Security Caucus on Monday toured a migrant processing center and addressed what they say is a growing immigration crisis on the southern border.
The all-Republican delegation also called out Vice President Kamala Harris – whom President Biden designated as his immigration czar – for refusing to come see the crisis first-hand.
“They say that the border is secure, that people are being turned back. I can tell you that the border is anything but secure […] the ones who are de facto in charge of our southern border are the drug cartels from Mexico,” said U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, the caucus co-chair.
Babin said he was told by immigration authorities that unauthorized migrant apprehensions are at a 20-year high, but deportations are at their lowest level in recent history.
Caucus members said they learned during their trip that more than 200,000 unauthorized migrants have “gotten away” at the border so far this year because agents are being taken off their posts and assigned clerical or caretaker duty at processing centers.
“Texas border agents spend less than 50 percent of their time patrolling the border. Most the time, they’re babysitters, take care of the influx of unaccompanied minors and leaving our border unguarded. That is very bad,” Babin said.
The GOP leader said he visited the Department of Health and Human Services’ Emergency Intake Site in nearby Fort Bliss but wasn’t informed about how much taxpayer money has been spent in caring for the 4,500 unaccompanied minors housed there. “That to me was stunning on how they would not have that information,” he said.
Monday’s was the second large group of Republican lawmakers to come to El Paso in the past two months. In March, a delegation led by U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California, also chastised the Biden administration for its handling of a migrant surge threatening to surpass 1 million encounters this year.
Democrats insist there’s no crisis at the border and have said the Republicans are exaggerating the situation for political gain.
On Monday, the Republicans upped the ante by accusing Biden of encouraging the mass migration of foreigners likely to become future Democratic Party voters.
“Why could the Biden administration want to have a situation like this […] All I can think of is they’re looking as a registered voter population, a new block to come in and replace the American electorate. That’s the only think I can think of,” Babin said. “His campaign rhetoric incentivized illegal immigration since he was a candidate.”
Top officers from the National Border Patrol Council echoed concerns about drug cartels taking advantage of the situation to send record amounts of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids through a now porous U.S. border, and to cash in on the hardship of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans and others seeking clandestine passage to America.
“(The cartels) are loving it right now. This has created a magnet for the cartels, for the human smuggling, for the sex trafficking,” said Art del Cueto, vice president of the NBPC. “As far as I’m concerned, those individuals that are suffering, those people that are putting their children in the hands of these smugglers, that falls on the hands of this administration.”\
Del Cueto said the reassignments have contributed to low morale among Border Patrol agents. And he fears that the likely rollback of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention public health Title 42 order will lead to more unauthorized migration.
“It’s going to be chaos,” he said.