Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) shared his experience during a tour at the U.S. southern border last week, lamenting the gravity of the crisis caused by a significant rise in illegal border crossings, particularly from unaccompanied minors.
Lankford was one of the 19 senators who visited the U.S.-Mexico border and facilities housing unaccompanied minors to see firsthand the extent of the illegal immigration crisis. The Oklahoma senator documented what he saw in several videos and social media posts in an attempt to shed some light on the situation, given that open media access has not been readily granted by the administration.
“This is absolutely an open border situation,” Lankford said in one of his videos. “Anyone who wants to come in from any country in the world, if you walk onto this bridge here in McAllen, Texas, on the Mexico side of it and get here, and you pay the cartels—to actually come up to this area so the cartels, make you pay a fee to come here on the Mexico side—then they come in here, and they’re all released.
“So no matter what your background is, no matter who you are, if you come through this spot right here, you’re going to be released. This is what open borders really look like. This is why this is a problem,” he added.
Lankford was describing a temporary processing center at McAllen, Texas, located less than a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border where illegal immigrants, in particular family units, were entering into the United States. The migrants, he said, were being stopped by border patrol agents after entering into the United States and led to a temporary holding area under a bridge. After obtaining basic information about the migrants, families with children 6-years and younger are given a Notice to Appear, and are then transported to a bus station in the center of McAllen, Texas, where they were released.
He said that although the Notice to Appear requires that illegal immigrants appear in court at a later date, some of the court hearings may not occur until three-years time.
“I know why President Biden doesn’t want the media to be at the southern border—because we do have an open border,” he told reporters during a press conference on Friday following a visit to a holding facility at Donna, Texas.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Department of Homeland Security for comment on Lankford’s comments.
His account of the border comes at the same time Democratic Texas lawmaker Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) expressed concern on March 22 over the release of 150 illegal immigrants without a future court date or any notice.
Cuellar said they were “released without even a Notice To Appear, which is, in my opinion, unprecedented that you’re going to release somebody and hope that they show up without a court date.” None of the people who were stopped were unaccompanied children, he said.
The United States is facing a significant influx of illegal immigrants in recent weeks, in particular unaccompanied minors, who have overwhelmed border facilities and resources.
While families and single adults are being expelled at the border, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week, the administration is still accepting unaccompanied minors who arrive illegally.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memo last Thursday to the heads of executive departments and agencies seeking temporary assistance to bolster staff resources at the border.
Recent photos of the detention facilities provided by CBP, lawmakers, and non-profits show children sleeping in crowded conditions on floor mats, and in some cases on the floor. Other photos show very young children sleeping on mats or playing in a playpen.
A border patrol agent who spoke to The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity described the conditions as being unhygienic and conducive to diseases, including COVID-19.
“Any diseases that are in there, it’s being kept in there like a petri dish. The smell is overwhelming,” the agent said, describing the conditions in a facility in south Texas.
Republican lawmakers have argued that the burgeoning crisis is a result of President Joe Biden’s decision to overturn several Trump-era immigration policies that saw the flow of illegal border crossings curbed. This included his predecessor’s cornerstone Migrant Protection Protocol, which effectively ended the problematic “catch and release” policy, significantly stemming the surge of illegal immigrants seen at the southern border in 2019.
In a return to the Obama-era policies that facilitate “catch-and-release,” the Biden administration is again releasing unaccompanied minors into the country. The lawmakers argue that Biden’s act has been interpreted as a signal to prospective migrants to travel to the United States.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, has sought to shift the blame on former President Donald Trump’s administration, with Mayorkas saying that the previous government had “dismantled the orderly, humane, and efficient way of allowing children to make their claims under United States law in their own country.”
The number of family units (19,246) and unaccompanied minors (9,457) crossing illegally rose significantly in February, compared to 7,294 family units and 5,585 unaccompanied minors in January, and 4,404 family units and 4,993 unaccompanied minors in December 2020.
Similarly, the United States also faced a sharp spike of enforcement encounters in February at 100,441 encounters compared to 78,442 in January, 74,018 in December, and 72,111 in November.