On Monday, Texas Representatives Chip Roy (R-TX-21) and Michael Cloud (R-TX-27) joined fellow Congressmen Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Ben Cline (R-VA) in touring the Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S.-Mexico border, where they visited McAllen Border Patrol facilities, a migrant processing center, and Donna detention facilities.
Following their tour, the Congressmen hosted a roundtable discussion with border and immigration officials from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “to shed light on the efforts” being made “to keep our nation secure” and to “propose policy changes to address the impact of drug cartels and traffickers who have seized operational control of our nation’s border,” a press release detailing the event stated.
The border visit comes as apprehensions at the U.S. southern border continues to reach unprecedented numbers.
While the July statistics are expected to be released soon, CBP reported more than 776,000 apprehensions between October 2018 and June 2019 alone. By comparison, approximately 521,000 apprehensions were reported for all of fiscal year 2018.
Regarding what he observed during his visit, Congressman Roy said in an interview with The Texan, “It is completely absurd what is happening at our border.”
Roy continued by discussing the overwhelmed state in which Border Patrol agents and immigration officials find themselves, as they are required to use their manpower for processing and humanitarian purposes as opposed to border security and protective measures.
According to CBP, the Rio Grande Valley sector alone encompasses over 320 miles of river, 250 coastal miles, and 19 counties.
However, as the number of illegal border crossings continues to surge, border patrol officials lack the manpower required to monitor the 17,000 square miles under their umbrella of oversight.
“We have turned Border Patrol into a processing center… We need bodies, we need boats … under whatever circumstances we need to get down there and secure the border,” Roy said of the matter.
Additionally, Border Patrol authorities are further overwhelmed by the growing influence and power of cartels, like the Gulf Cartel and Juarez Cartel, who continue to exploit the overwhelmed state of Border Patrol by way of violence, human smuggling, and various other forms of organized crime and human rights abuse.
According to Roy, Border Patrol is “unable to deal with the fact that the Gulf Cartel has operational control of our border in McAllen” as they are overwhelmingly required “to use their manpower for processing and humanitarian purposes.”
Roy continued by stating that both the Trump administration and Congress are perpetuating the problem by refusing to put forth legislation asking the Secretary of State to label these organized crime units as foreign terrorist organizations due to concerns about how such a declaration would affect existing agreements, like the Migration Protection Protocols.
Under the terms of this agreement, individuals seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico can be legally required to remain in Mexico while their immigration cases are adjudicated.
When asked about his observations of the state of the facilities, processing center, and detention facilities specifically, Congressman Roy described what he saw as “clean,” “safe” places equipped with water, food, diapers, medicine, bathrooms, and showers among other things for migrants who arrive.
While Roy did say that the state of facilities often depends on timing and the facility itself, he told The Texan, “The fact is we have clean facilities doing the best they can to deal with unimaginable numbers of people.”
In a Twitter video showing himself at the Donna Processing Center, Congressman Roy called on Congress to “do its job to make sure that there are resources where we can send people forward and to stop the catch and release that’s driving everyone here.”
In many instances, overcrowding is prone to happen, but Roy attributes this to a lack of congressional funding, which is preventing Border Patrol and ICE from having the adequate space and resources required to effectively provide for the record number of people.
Additionally, Roy denied seeing signs of mistreatment during his visit. The conditions of the facilities came under scrutiny after allegations of misconduct and comparisons to “concentration camps” were made by some prominent congressional Democrats.
Roy described the facilities built under the Obama administration as having “chain-link fences instead of closed walls, so that you can have air circulation – so that you can see – so that you can keep people safe.”
According to CBP, the volume of people arriving each month is placing detention centers and other facilities, designed to accommodate short term stays of no more than 72 hours or less under severe strain.
This week, however, CBP announced the opening of two new weather-proof, climate-controlled Texas facilities in Donna and Tornilla capable of holding 4,500 single adults and providing hot meals, medical services, transportation, sleeping mats, clothing, and baby formula among other amenities.
In addition to the new facilities recently opened, CBP has plans for continued development in El Paso and Yuma, Arizona and plans to renovate an existing facility in McAllen.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.