Republican senators on Friday released shocking pictures of migrants and children packed into border facilities as they railed against what they called a border crisis of President Biden’s own creation.
“This is inhumane, it is wrong and it is the direct consequence of policy decisions by the Biden administration to stop building the wall, to return to catch-and-release, and to end the stay-in-Mexico policy,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said in a press conference.
The 19-person delegation, led by Sens. Cruz and John Cornyn, R-Texas, toured a facility in Donna, where migrants have been packed into facilities designed for many fewer migrants. Cruz told reporters that the facility designed for 250 migrants had nearly 4000.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., released images of babies he said had been handed over by child smugglers.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., accused the Biden administration of bringing a “tragedy” to the nation and said that agents told them that Biden had made their job more difficult.
“They told us their job got a lot harder on January 20th when Joe Biden became President of the United States,” he said.
Cruz, meanwhile, posted images of migrants crammed into pens, almost on top of one another. At the press conference, he referred to “cages after cages” — a nod to the accusation leveled at President Donald Trump that his administration kept children in “cages.”
He also said that the Donna facility had a 10 percent COVID-positivity rate, much higher than the U.S. average.
Senators who spoke to Border Patrol and other officials said that authorities were “overwhelmed” by the numbers — something that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has also said.
“The Border Patrol and Health and Human Services and the non-governmental organizations that are struggling to deal with this flood of humanity tell us they cannot get ahead of this flood of humanity without policy changes in Washington DC,” Cornyn said.
The visit to Donna followed a nighttime tour of the border, where senators said they were heckled and taunted by smugglers and traffickers. A photo provided to Fox News by Barrasso’s office showed Sens. Barrasso, John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on a boat patrol along the Rio Grande Valley.
Sens. Barrasso, Hoeven, Cotton on a boat tour of the Rio Grande. (Office of Sen. Barrasso)
It is the latest in a push by Republicans to link the border crisis to the policies of the administration, which has seen in particular the ending of the Migrant Protection Protocols. That program, known as the “Remain-in-Mexico” program, kept migrants in Mexico for their hearings — essentially ending the practice by which migrants were released into the interior.
Critics of the Trump-era program said the policy was cruel and kept migrants in squalid conditions, but supporters said it reduced the pull factors bringing migrants north. With those pull factors reinstated, they say, the surge is increasing.
Customs and Border Protection encountered 100,000 migrants in February, while there are more than 16,000 child migrants in Border Patrol and Health and Human Services custody. The administration has been scrambling to increase capacity by opening new facilities and even appealing to federal employees to volunteer.
On Thursday, during his first press conference since taking office in January, President Biden downplayed the surge and said he made “no apologies” for reversing programs like MPP.
“It happens every single solitary year,” he said about the increasing numbers. “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March.”
Biden has also pushed for comprehensive immigration reform that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most illegal immigrants in the country. But even those Republicans who would be open to a compromise on reform indicated that it was off the table until the crisis was fixed.
“How can you pass an immigration bill when you have an open border?” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.