Criminal JusticeFederalHealthcareImmigration & BorderTexas State Senators Denied Access to Unaccompanied Minors Facility

Sen. Ted Cruz blasted President Biden over transparency as the White House doubles down on its position that there is “not a crisis.”
March 23, 2021
Six Republican state senators said in a press conference on Monday evening that they were denied access to the unaccompanied minors facility in Donna during their visit to the southern border.

During the press event, The Texan asked Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) about the fact that the Biden administration has declined to characterize the events at the border as a “crisis.” 

“I would absolutely call this a crisis. I disagree on that point, and I seem to remember people talking about transparency not too long ago, and I think one aspect of transparency would be letting us see what’s going on down there,” Nelson said. “And what it takes, I think, is having public awareness of the fact that … all this is going on and we’ve got to do something.”

From left to right, Sens. Donna Campbell, Angela Paxton, Jane Nelson, Lois Kolkhorst, Dawn Buckingham, and Joan Huffman appear in a press conference on March 22. (Daniel Friend/The Texan)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement on Monday condemning President Biden for “clearly and emphatically” refusing to give the press access to border patrol facilities.

Higher-ups in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have preempted border patrol agents from allowing members of the press to accompany them on “ride-alongs,” and DHS has developed a generally tight-lipped posture toward media outlets, NBC News reported last week.

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Cruz took aim at the cloak the administration has placed over the border patrol facilities.

“Denying the press the ability to observe, film, and report on the conditions at the border is not openness or transparency — it is hiding the truth from the American people,” Cruz wrote. 

“The press and the American people deserve more than denials and excuses from a podium. They deserve to see and understand the crisis for themselves with the help of reporters who are free and independent from your administration.”

Cruz blamed Biden’s “radical immigration policies” for contributing to the surge at the southern border and announced that he would visit the border with 14 other U.S. senators.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kristen Sinema (D-AZ) also wrote a letter to Biden urging him to address the border crisis by providing more border patrol resources, improving coordination among federal agencies, and implementing reforms to the asylum system.

“It is critical that our nation take aggressive steps to secure our border, protect our communities and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” Cornyn and Sinema wrote.

“We pledge to work with our Congressional colleagues to develop bipartisan and commonsense responses to the surge of migrants at the border, and hope to collaborate with you, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and the rest of your Administration to tackle this challenge.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in her daily briefing on Monday the Biden administration is “committed to transparency” and wants to give the media access to border facilities while adhering to COVID-19 protocols and respecting privacy concerns.

Despite limited access to the media, Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-TX-28) office provided images of children at the facility for unaccompanied minors in Donna.

When asked about such photographs, Psaki again declined to characterize the events at the border as a crisis situation.

“Well, children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution (sic), who are fleeing terrible situations, is not a crisis,” Psaki said. “We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated with, treated and put in conditions that are safe.”

Psaki went on to clarify that the administration does not want to keep children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities, which are not equipped to house unaccompanied minors, but that “sending them back on this treacherous journey” is not the “right choice to make.”

The White House also repeated its claim that the asylum process was “broken by the last administration.”

In a Sunday appearance on This Week, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas also criticized former President Trump and implored foreign nationals not to approach the border.

“The message is quite clear — do not come. The border is closed. The border is secure,” Mayorkas said. “We are expelling single adults under the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] authority under Title 42 of the United States Code because we’re in the midst of the pandemic and that is a public imperative.”

Mayorkas also attributed limited media access to coronavirus precautions.

In view of some of the more permissive immigration orders handed down by Biden at the beginning of his presidency, a reporter asked Psaki whether Biden could have done more to communicate that the border is still closed for the most part. 

Psaki disagreed that there had been inconsistencies, saying, “We’ve been conveying the messages that I have just conveyed from the beginning.”


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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."