SAN DIEGO, California — A senior House Republican who visited several federal immigration facilities in the country’s busiest region for illegal border crossings Friday described the congressional visit as a “reality check” for how federal agents and law enforcement partners are “working their rear ends off” despite Democrats’ claims otherwise.
Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina and a bipartisan group toured three Customs and Border Protection facilities and one Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement holding facility in McAllen, Texas, and Donna, Texas. He said he witnessed federal agents stepping up to care for those in custody despite it being something “that’s not part of their job description.”
“It’s really a reality check for anybody to get up there and espouse this isn’t a crisis, like the Democrats did six months ago,” Walker, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security. Facilitation, and Operations, told the Washington Examiner over the phone Friday evening. “These Border Patrol agents are working their rear ends off with a level of professional service that’s rarely seen and anybody that would say otherwise would be disingenuous.”
Subcommittee Chairwoman Kathleen Rice said ahead of the trip that lawmakers were going down to South Texas to investigate the “inhumane treatment and conditions that migrants have endured.” A group of nine House members, including seven Democrats and two Republicans, took part Friday and visited the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Border Patrol Donna Station, Hidalgo Port of Entry, and an HHS facility that holds unaccompanied migrant children.
Since Oct. 1, 2018, this specific region of the border, one of Border Patrol’s nine sectors, has seen 289,000 people come through its facilities.
Walker said at one Border Patrol facility he saw a room packed full of diapers, clothing, food, and other resources, an indication the agency had the means on site to meet people’s needs. Congress recently passed $4.6 billion in supplemental funding for the humanitarian and security crisis along the southern border, where double the number of people have been encountered in the first nine months of fiscal 2019 as the same point last year.
“It’s like if a thousand people showed up at you house this week. You would do everything you can do to provide the care and quality you can but before you get any assistance, it’s overwhelming. And that’s what we’re looking at here,” he said.
Some Democrats have condemned the 73 Border Patrol stations along the southern border as “concentration camps.” Democratic senators who traveled to detention facilities in McAllen, Texas, on Friday provided a very negative account of the conditions they witnessed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer described the conditions as “inhumane.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told lawmakers during a House hearing earlier this week massive numbers of people are being held in CBP custody because Democrats will not provide additional funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is where Border Patrol is supposed to transfer people to after initially taking them in and conducting interviews.
Walker said he learned more than half of all in custody were under the age of 18 compared to 2014 when just 1% of detainees were minors. In addition to children and families, he said he learned adults from countries including Pakistan and China were being taken into custody after having paid upwards of $30,000 to get smuggled into the U.S.
Walker, a former pastor in Greensboro, North Carolina, said he looks at those in custody with a “compassion perspective.”
“These are human beings. These people were created. And in my faith, I know God loves these people as much as he loves me,” he said. “But this immigration system is taking in one million immigrants over the last two years … these Border Patrol agents are not being able to secure either border with the amount of drugs and trafficking because of the influx.”
The Republican Study Committee founder declined to predict whether both parties could come to a long-term solution before the August recess.
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