For weeks, outlets have been reporting a wave of migrants crossing our border but have had little access to these facilities. Last week, I joined a few of my colleagues on a trip to Texas to see the border facilities for ourselves. The current influx of migrants is like nothing we’ve seen in the past 20 years and should be of concern to every American. What I witnessed was not just a humanitarian crisis, it was a national security crisis.
When I entered the facility the sheer number of migrants was alarming. The Donna facility is intended to hold 250 people in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines. However, they are averaging 3,500 migrants a day. While everyone was wearing a mask, social distancing was impossible and border agents only have enough resources to test migrants who are showing symptoms. These children, by law, are not able to be kept in custody of the U.S. government even if they test positive for Coronavirus. The end result is thousands of children released into the US and continuing the spread of illnesses like COVID-19.
Due to the large number of immigrants entering the facility, border patrol agents are utilized for intake rather than guarding the border. Typically, they have at least 20 agents staffing each border section, but now they are left with three or less. These gaps in the border are only exacerbated by President Biden’s executive order to halt border wall construction that left breaks in the wall large enough to drive trucks through without enough border agents to stop and search them.
Cartels are hyperaware of our immigration laws and have built a billion-dollar industry from exploiting any legal or physical vulnerability on the border. Many cartels will distract border agents with large groups of people and then smuggle in drugs from another location. They take advantage of any policy favoring children or families by either posing as children seeking asylum or convincing parents to pay egregious fines for them to smuggle their sons and daughters only to abuse the kids, use them as mules, or abandon them in the desert.
Arkansas knows first-hand the violence and devastation that follows cartels. I-40 continues to be a major route for criminal organizations trafficking both drugs and humans. Local law enforcement tell me that influxes of cartel movement often mirror any increases of migrants at the border, highlighting that the events on the border can increase crime in our own backyards and immediately affect the safety of Arkansans.
Unfortunately, the threat doesn’t stop with cartels. A few weeks ago, two terrorists on the FBI watch list were apprehended at the border. Both of these individuals were on a no-fly list, but seeing weaknesses in our border, they flew to Mexico and tried to pose as immigrants. While border agents were able to catch them and figure out their true identity, this incident demonstrates the importance of ensuring that our border is secure and properly staffed.
My colleagues and I have repeatedly expressed a willingness to work with this Administration and fix this crisis, but we need a starting point. The White House has indicated an interest in economic development in Central America, an idea I’ve proposed in the past, but there haven’t been any additional details released. We also cannot properly reset our immigration system without addressing the holes in our border security. Failure to do so will only result in more migrants continuing to make the dangerous journey to our border in hopes of getting across.
Maintaining our border is not a political issue, and it is clear, there are no winners in our current system. Yet, there is a continued lack of leadership from the Biden Administration. Reforming our immigration system and securing our border is a tall order that cannot be properly addressed without a collective effort in Washington. Yet, President Biden and Vice President Harris continue to avoid the problem from Pennsylvania Avenue, instead offering up half-hearted stopgaps and band-aids without seeing for themselves the humanitarian and national security crisis unfolding down the south. This pivotal moment requires aggressive action. I urge the Biden Administration to visit our overcrowded and underfunded border and work with Congress to come up with solutions that saves lives and makes our nation more secure.