Rockford, Illinois News

Texas governor puts Biden administration ‘on notice’ over border crisis

EL PASO, Texas — The Biden administration has sent federal officials to the Texas-Mexico border to address a surge of unaccompanied minors, as 12 Republican members of Congress arrived in El Paso to learn more about what Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is describing as a humanitarian crisis.

Abbott in a several paragraph statement Monday said he was putting the president “on notice” for the humanitarian crisis he created at the border by reversing Trump-era policies.

“Texas is putting President Biden on notice that his policies are risking the health and safety of Texans and putting children at risk from cartels and human traffickers,” he said.

As of Sunday morning, more than 4,200 unaccompanied migrant children were being held in short-term holding facilities, according to CBS News, from which they are supposed to be transported elsewhere within 72 hours.

The number of children in temporary Border Patrol custody fluctuates by the hour, the El Paso Times reports, between 800 and 1,000 children “held this week – many for more than two days at a time.”

While the White House has not labeled the surge of undocumented children a crisis, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Sunday the “humanitarian crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico is former President Donald Trump’s fault.

“The Biden administration is trying to fix the broken system that was left to them by the Trump administration,” Pelosi said. “The Biden administration will have a system, based on doing the best possible job, understanding this is a humanitarian crisis.”

Abbott agrees there is a humanitarian crisis, but blames Biden for it, as the recent influx did not exist during the previous administration. According to Border Patrol numbers, the surge of illegal crossings has not been as high as it has been in more than five years.

“The Biden Administration’s reckless open border policies have created a humanitarian crisis for unaccompanied minors coming across the border,” Abbott said in Monday’s statement. “With no plan in place, the administration has created heartbreaking and inhumane conditions for children who are being held in Texas. We have no idea if these children are being reunited with their families through DNA testing or other means, or if they have been victims of human trafficking.

“As the Governor of Texas, my responsibility is the health and safety of our citizens, and the Biden Administration’s lack of planning has created a public health and safety emergency in our communities. Is the federal government tracking what countries these children are coming from and what COVID-19 variants they might have been exposed to?”

Abbott also asked how long these children be held in Texas, whether they are receiving COVID-19 tests, and what’s happening with those who test positive.

“The answer to these questions affect the health and safety of our communities, and Texans deserve answers,” Abbot said. “But more than that, the American people deserve action from this administration.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday the administration is facing “a big challenge” and using “every level of the federal government to help address that.”

Officials from the U.S. Health and Human Services and the Office of Refugee Resettlement are at the border to begin the vetting process to place children with sponsors, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency is at the border for the next three months to oversee the intake, shelter and transfer of undocumented and unaccompanied children.

“They’re playing a number of roles there to address what we feel is a significant problem and a significant challenge, and I think we haven’t … been hiding about that,” Psaki said of FEMA.

Meanwhile, 12 Republican members of Congress arrived in Texas Monday to assess the situation at the El Paso Central Processing Center.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, who led the group, was joined by Republican representatives John Katko (N.Y.), Chuck Fleischmann (Tenn.), Clay Higgins (La.), Gonzales (Texas), Michael Cloud (Texas), Carlos Gimenez (Fla.), Yvette Herrell (N.M.), David Joyce (Ohio), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa), August Pfluger (Texas), John Rose (Tenn.) and Maria Salazar (Fla.)

Salazar, who represents parts of Miami, expressed concern that the children have already been or could become victims of human trafficking. Salazar, who is of Cuban descent, said Central Americans are at high risk of being trafficked.

“We need to join forces and send a message that we cannot allow what’s happening on the border, because it’s our girls, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the ones who are being raped. It’s our girls, the ones, the children who are being trafficked,” she said.

McCarthy told reporters at a news conference in El Paso Monday, ““I came down here because I heard of the crisis. It’s more than a crisis, this is a human heartbreak. The sad part about all this, didn’t have to happen. This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration. There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis.”