House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and a dozen of his colleagues denounced the Biden administration’s handling of increased migration at the southwest border and called for congressional action during a visit Monday to the Texas border.
The 13-person Republican congressional delegation traveled to El Paso following higher numbers of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, including thousands of migrant children arriving without their parents.
“This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said during a news conference.
McCarthy blamed the recent influx on President Joe Biden’s efforts to undo his predecessor’s immigration restrictions. He also faulted Biden for not responding to a letter he sent earlier this month requesting a meeting to discuss recent migration trends.
“He doesn’t even acknowledge the letter, let alone a crisis that his policies created. So we will work together across the aisle, within our own party, because we know the solutions it will take,” McCarthy said.
If Biden does not reverse his immigration policies, “it’s going to take congressional action to do it, and that’s why we’re here,” he added.
The event also featured remarks from Republicans who represent border-area districts and who serve on Homeland Security committees. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, told reporters that U.S. Border Patrol agents “are doing God’s work keeping our border safe.”
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, the ranking member on the Homeland Security Appropriations panel, said the U.S. has “got to put those resources where they’re needed” in a future supplemental spending package.
After the Republican news conference, Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Democrat whose district includes El Paso, told reporters she wrote McCarthy the week prior and offered to arrange meetings with immigration lawyers and human rights advocates to give him a “complete picture.” McCarthy did not take up her offer, she said.
“He obviously only wanted a very narrow perspective,” she said.
Escobar also accused Republicans of “using the border and using my community as a prop” and of using “dangerous” rhetoric that stokes fear of immigrants.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, the former chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, also criticized McCarthy and other Republicans. On Twitter, he called their concerns for migrant children “hollow and cynical” given their past support for the Trump administration’s immigration policies that hurt migrant families.
The lawmakers’ remarks came two days after Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced he had directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to step in and help border officials safely process and transfer migrant children who cross the border without their parents.
The Biden administration has seen an increasing number of migrant children entering the U.S., which has strained border facilities and capacity at Health and Human Services, the department that takes custody of unaccompanied migrant minors after they are picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Border agents recorded more than 100,000 border crossings in February, including 9,457 unaccompanied migrant children, according to the most recent data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The migration numbers reflect a significant jump compared with last year but are still lower than those seen by border agents in the spring of 2019.
In response, the administration has reopened an influx shelter in Texas to house teenagers who enter the U.S. without their parents, while officials repeatedly make public statements urging migrants against making the journey to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Congressional Republicans for weeks have called the increased border migration a “crisis,” a term Biden administration officials have rejected.
Mayorkas has instead said, “We are challenged at the border. The men and women at the Department of Homeland Security are meeting that challenge.”
After news reports that migrant children have been held in short-term detention facilities along the border beyond the 72-hour legal limit, DHS on Saturday said the department is “working around the clock” to move children from CBP custody to HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement.
“A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said in a statement announcing the FEMA aid. “We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.”