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Eric Scicchitano/The Daily Item

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-PA-12, speaks Friday outside the Union County Courthouse when announcing the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Caucus meant to seek oversight of the federal Bureau of Prisons. Also shown are, from left, Union County Commissioner Chair Preston Boop, state Rep. David Rowe, R-85, and Shane Fausey, president of the National Council of Prison Locals.

U.S. Congressman Fred Keller, R-12, said on Thursday that the Biden administration has caused a security and humanitarian crisis along the southwest Texas border, and that construction of the wall should resume to help alleviate illegal crossing into the U.S.

Keller, who leaves for El Paso, Texas, on Sunday to see for himself what the situation is, spoke with the Daily Item about a wide range of topics having to do with his trip. He will return on Tuesday.

His constituents in the 12th district have concerns about "people coming across the border who are on the FBI terror list," he said. "People are concerned about terrorism. And the policies of the Biden administration have taken the resources away from customs and border patrol to be able to patrol our border, now that they are taking care of people.

People are also concerned about the humanitarian crisis of women and children making the journey to the border, he said.

What is happening down there is devastating, Keller said. "You are seeing unaccompanied minors arriving at our southern border. Women and children who are being trafficked. And it has gotten so much worse because of President Biden's policies. That should be the number one concern of everybody to stop that from happening and people being treated poorly."

Keller cited the discovery of an abandoned child, 10 years old, left in the desert. NBC and CNN, among others, have reported that a 10-year-old unaccompanied migrant child was found alone in a field on April 1.

Asked whether he believes the American people have been given an honest appraisal of what is going on at the border, Keller said sharply, "Has the press been able to take pictures down there? The Biden administration has not allowed the press in to take pictures. There has been a media blackout by the Biden administration."

Keller didn't visit the border last year during the Trump administration, when similar reports of immigrant families being housed in cages sparked criticism.

Keller said he didn't go "because the press was allowed to go to the border. They were allowed to take pictures. They weren't locked out. I never heard the press last year say they couldn't do a story on the border during the Trump administration.

"If you look at the pictures at the border back then, there were cages built by President Obama that the Trump administration used," he said. "And now if you look at the crisis that is down there and the amount of people that are showing up at our southern border — they were not showing up in these large numbers under the Trump administration. They were not." 

Steps to take

Keller said building the wall should resume.

"We absolutely" should resume building the wall, he said. "It's our southern border. Without a border, we don't have a country. Here is the point. It is a tool our border patrol needs. Even DHS Secretary Mayorkas [in the Biden administrtion] says we should build areas of the wall."

Reports in the Washington Times, N.Y. Post and Business Insider, among others, have reported that Mayorkas said some "gaps in the wall" should be filled.

"First thing that needs to happen is the administration needs to admit it is a crisis," Keller said. "The first step in solving any problem is admitting you have a problem. They are not willing to do that. Call it what it is and then let's resolve it. 

"Implement the policies that were working and showing results under the Trump administration," Keller suggested. "Working with Mexico and the governments of Honduras and Guatemala. So that people can apply for asylum the proper way."

As for the people who are down there, "we need to take a look at how to handle it and that is why I am going there. So I can see first hand what is happening. The scope of the issue. And then come back and work collaboratively with my colleagues. That is what I want to do."

But the first thing is to go down and talk to the people who are dealing with it, he said.

Keller said that "we need to get control of the situation before any legislation is passed."

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