Valley Congressmen Fred Keller and Dan Meuser spent part of this week in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, talking to Customs and Border Patrol agents about the migrant situation at the border and seeing firsthand the humanitarian toll it is taking on everyone in the region.
It was eye-opening, Meuser, R-9, of Dallas, said of his tour at the border.
“No matter what you see in the news it’s nothing like being there,” he said.
Meuser said he was given access to anywhere he wanted to go.
Meuser and Fred Keller, R-12, Kreamer, were among two groups of Congressmen who flew down to the southern border over the weekend.
“This has truly been a tragic turn of events over the last few months, unfortunately,” Meuser said, on Tuesday, after he had returned from Texas.
“Four months ago,” he said, “the border was more or less secure. The (President Joe) Biden administration felt it necessary to reverse, whether they were good programs or not, what the (former President Donald) Trump administration had instituted, and put our border in order.”
Meuser said he was told that 15,000 illegal immigrants were being apprehended back in October and November.
“By March the count is 170,000 being apprehended,” Meuser said.
Border patrol agents wanted Meuser and the other Congressmen to see how many drugs were making it over the border.
Gun smuggling, Meuser was told, was up 131 percent.
Keller also heard from border patrol, farmers and ranchers, and local officials at various stops in El Paso, Texas, and Doña Ana and Luna counties in New Mexico.
Keller talked to law enforcement officers in El Paso about the difficulties posed by the ongoing migrant surge, where recidivism is at 44 percent. Border patrol agents are currently stretched thin, tasked with serving as social workers and detention guards in addition to patrolling 260 miles of border, he said.
A farming family in New Mexico met with Keller and talked about the criminal element moving over the border. “They were afraid for their lives when they went out to take care of their cattle,” Keller said, recalling the conversation.
Keller also had a chance to see where construction on the wall had stopped. “There are supplies rotting in the heat because President Biden stopped construction of the border wall, which is so badly needed to keep the criminal element, who these people are encountering every day, out of our country.”
Unaccompanied minors are also a problem, Meuser said.
Meuser said he saw how children were put in “pods” of 50 where the the capacity was normally 15. “That part is a mess,” he said.
That said, within the pod, these children were treated as best as possible ... with daily showers and food available, he said.
The large number of minors being kept in pods is a direct result of a Biden decision to modify a Trump executive order, Meuser said. “Under Biden unaccompanied minors are not being deported,” he said.
Meuser is empathetic about the migrants.
“For the most part they just want a better life,” he said. “They walk across a desert to get to the U.S. Certainly we need to address some kind of immigration reform. But right now, that is causing this disaster — a disaster that no one in the Biden administration was ready for.”
“It is very emotional to see these folks who just want a better life,” he said.
“We asked the guards what should be done,” Meuser said. “They said our communication needs to be consistent. There can’t be one Democratic message and one Republican message. There has to be an American response on what we are doing.
“Secondly, work with Mexico to control the movement of these immigrants.”
In recent days the Biden administration has re-established agreements with the Mexican and Guatemalan government to station troops at their northern borders. “I think that will help us on our border,” Meuser said.
“If someone was seeking asylum they would have their hearing and then if appropriate they could come in,” Meuser said.
Agents told Meuser they do not want Title 42 lifted because it would lead to “millions of people seeking to cross the border,” he said.
Title 42, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lets Customs and Border Protection expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of the virus in holding facilities.
Meuser said part of the solution is “for Congress to act on a bi-partisan, American plan.”