The Democrat lawmaker who leaked images of the conditions at migrant detention facilities said on Wednesday that he’s received more information about the crisis at the U.S. southern border from Mexico than from U.S. government officials.
“I’m glad that my friend Roberta Jacobson and her team are in Mexico, and I’ll get a read out right from the Mexicans because it’s hard to get information from our own government,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told MSNBC. Jacobson, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico from 2016 to 2018, is now serving as coordinator for the southwest border on the National Security Council.
“I sit on the Homeland Appropriations [Committee]. I get more information from across the river than I get from my own government, which is just amazing,” Cuellar added.
Cueller has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden’s administration and its handling of the burgeoning crisis, which has seen a significant surge in illegal border crossings, in particular from unaccompanied minors. While families and single adults are being expelled at the border, the administration is still accepting unaccompanied minors who arrive illegally, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week.
The influx of unaccompanied minors has overwhelmed border facilities and resources, and prompted the administration to build overflow facilities to house the immigrants under its “humane” policies. However, the administration has not been able to keep up with the flow of the illegal border crossings, prompting concerns of overcrowding in detention facilities amid a pandemic.
Photos of the facilities that were provided to media show children sleeping in crowded conditions with emergency blankets on floor mats, and in some photos, what appears to be on the floor with very little room to move or walk.
Cueller gave the photographs his team took during a recent trip to a Border Patrol facility to The Epoch Times, with his office describing the conditions as “terrible,” especially for children. He said during a separate interview on Thursday that he released the photos because “it’s important to have the public know what’s happening.”
During his interview, Cueller lamented Biden’s messaging to prospective Central American migrants, saying that more work is needed.
“The first one was, ‘don’t come now; come later.’ It’s like saying, ‘don’t break the law now, break it later.’ I’m glad that message is gone,” he said. “The message has been much better.”
He said the administration needs to be more direct in its messaging. He suggested showing images of illegal immigrants, but not children, being returned.
Biden, who vowed to reverse his predecessor’s immigration policies during his campaign, has recently pleaded to Central American migrants to stay put in their “town or city or community” instead of making the dangerous trip to illegally cross into the United States.
Upon taking office, Biden reversed several Trump-era immigration policies, including his predecessor’s key Migrant Protection Protocol, which sought to end the problematic “catch and release” policy and is credited for significantly stemming the flow of illegal immigrants following a surge in 2019.
Cueller had previously criticized Biden for several of his early moves on immigrants, suggesting that they had contributed to the situation at the border. He previously told Fox News that the administration “should have taken a more cautious approach before making big changes,” such as reforming MPP instead of abolishing it.
The Texas Democrat also alerted the public to how Border Patrol officers have been releasing illegal immigrants into the interior of the country without a future court date or any notice.
“Over the weekend at [the] Anzalduas area by the bridge, there were about 150 folks [who] got released under what we call ‘prosecutorial discretion,’ because Border Patrol says, ‘We just don’t have the space,’” Cuellar told Border Report on Monday.
He added that 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.
Jack Phillips contributed to this report.