Senators visiting America’s southern border this week said they witnessed alarming conditions and urged President Joe Biden to quickly take action to stem the surge in illegal crossings.
“It was stunning to see how many people, including unaccompanied children, unlawfully crossed the border,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Friday, after touring an area in El Paso, Texas.
“It was alarming to see the number of migrants who attempted to cross the border in the short time that we were there. One young man noted that they will never stop trying to find a way across,” he added.
Portman spoke with border agents who said a processing facility in Paso del Norte is dealing with an increase in migrants of 150 to 200 percent, stretching both manpower and other resources thin.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) toured the border in Arizona with Gov. Doug Ducey, receiving a briefing from Customs and Border Protection and state officers and seeing firsthand “the humanitarian crisis” that Biden’s policies have caused, he said in a statement.
“It’s time for the Biden administration to secure the border and send a clear message of law and order. And it’s time for the president to get down here and see the crisis he’s created,” he added.
Biden has said he doesn’t have plans to visit the border at this time. He has been traveling in recent days to promote the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package he recently signed into law.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) also visited the border, touching down in El Paso with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and a bipartisan group of senators.
Murphy alleged that the Biden administration “is trying their best to uphold the rule of law with humanity” and, like most other Democrats, blamed the situation on the previous administration.
The senator said he was able to tour a border processing facility, where he saw hundreds of children “packed into big open rooms.”
“In a corner, I fought back tears as a 13 yr old girl [cried] uncontrollably explaining thru a translator how terrified she was, having been separated from her grandmother and without her parents,” he wrote on Twitter, adding: “For clarification, kids are no longer separated from their parents at the border (in this case, the girl’s parents are in the US). But even though kids can now stay and apply for asylum, if they are traveling w relatives who aren’t parents, the relative can’t stay.”
The trip was closed to press. Federal officials have also refused media requests for access to border detention facilities and have not released photographs or videos from the structures.
Another delegation is scheduled to visit the border next week, led by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Asked about the border crisis, a White House spokesperson told reporters on board Air Force One on Friday that Biden “is committed to implementing an immigration system that is orderly, that is humane, compassionate, and lawful, and his approach is focused on bold action to keep our country safe, strong, and prosperous.”
The administration is “working around the clock” to move unaccompanied minors to sponsors such as relatives, she added.