Criminal JusticeFederalHealthcareImmigration & BorderIssuesCruz, Cornyn, 17 Other U.S. Senators Tour Rio Grande River in ‘Heartbreaking’ Border Visit

During their tour with Texas public safety officers, the senators made an unnerving discovery on the river.
March 29, 2021
Nineteen U.S. Senators led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John Cornyn (R-TX) appeared at Anzalduas Park in Mission on Friday for a tour of the Rio Grande River as part of a border visit to highlight trafficking activities and a spike in illegal immigration.

The congressional delegation also toured the unaccompanied minors facility in Donna only days after six Texas state senators testified that they had not been permitted to enter the encampment.

Cruz posted pictures of the facility on social media following their visit, which depicted hundreds of children lined up next to one another lying on mats.

At a press conference following the boat tour, Cruz and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) mentioned that the convoy had to pause briefly during the tour because they encountered a human corpse floating in the river, presumably belonging to an individual who died trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

The tour lasted less than an hour and was guided by the Texas Department of Public Safety in boats armed with machine guns. 

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Texas Highway Patrol guides U.S. senators on a tour of the Rio Grande River. (The Texan/Hayden Sparks)

Cornyn pointed to the scarcity of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and humanitarian resources.

“The border patrol and health and human services, all the government officials, tell us they are doing the best they can, but they’re being overwhelmed,” Cornyn said, adding that a “change in policy” is needed.

Cruz called the border surge a “man-made crisis” and alleged that Biden’s “political handlers” are blocking the unaccompanied minors facilities from public view.

In his statement, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said that the Biden transition team was “advised more than once” by border security officials about the consequences of rescinding the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “remain in Mexico” policy.

The policy was an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico to keep individuals in Mexico while their asylum claims were considered by American immigration courts.

Grassley also cautioned against passing immigration reform when the U.S. has an “open border.”

Though the U.S. Department of Homeland Security maintains that immigration law is being enforced and the border is more or less closed due to COVID-19, Republicans contend that current rates of illegal alien apprehensions reflect an open border.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) noted that parties with children ages six and younger are almost immediately released from border patrol custody, which Johnson stated is intentional.

“[T]he Biden administration has set a goal for [CBP] to process and release people in an eight-hour timeframe. Eight hours!” Johnson said. “That’s not even a speedbump, it’s a go-slow zone on a path to illegal entry into this country.”

In addition, Lankford said the current situation meets the “definition of an open border” in part because cartels are strategically sending family units and children to locations along the border so CBP will be preoccupied with them and unable to intercept other illegal aliens with criminal intent.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said that the Donna encampment is able to house 1,000 without coronavirus protocols and 250 with coronavirus protocols, but is currently housing 4,200. According to Lankford, one of the pods at the Donna encampment was holding more than 700 children while it was designed to contain only 80.

Beto O’Rourke — who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Cruz in 2018 and who is also eyeing the governor’s mansion — mocked the senator’s border visit in a social media post.

“You’re in a Border Patrol boat armed with machine guns,” O’Rourke wrote on Twitter. “The only threat you face is unarmed children and families who are seeking asylum (as well as the occasional heckler).”

There are currently more than 18,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody, about 12,500 are with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and about 5,500 are with CBP, an agency that does not have the infrastructure to house children.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Barrasso (R-WY), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Kennedy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tommy Tuberville (R-AK), and John Thune (R-SD) also participated in the border visit.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."