A Texas Democrat who has been critical of the White House’s immigration policies on Wednesday renewed his calls for the Biden administration to do more to stem the flow of illegal immigrants across the southern border.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said in an interview on Fox News’ “Your World” program that he has urged President Joe Biden to put a “pause” on accepting or releasing illegal border crossers, citing the risk of COVID-19.
“It’s not fair to local communities, people being released there that might have COVID-19,” Cuellar said. “What I’m asking of the Biden administration is to do a pause.”
“Do a pause. They need to prioritize border communities, they need to prioritize the men and women of DHS,” the Texas lawmaker added.
Cuellar’s remarks came after reports that border officers in Texas were releasing illegal immigrants who test positive for COVID-19 to a nonprofit organization.
The immigrants were handed over to the Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley, which arranged for their stay in a La Joya, Texas, hotel that it had rented out entirely, La Joya police officials said.
“We did not know this. No one told the city of La Joya. No one told the police department that these people were here. And no one told us that these people were possibly ill,” La Joya Sgt. Manuel Casas told reporters at a July 27 press conference.
A representative for Catholic Charities of The Rio Grande Valley didn’t return an earlier request for comment but the charity’s executive director, Sister Norma Pimentel, told Border Report that the group has been helping house COVID-positive immigrants in hotels.
A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) told The Epoch Times via email that the agency in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) Sector continues to encounter “significant numbers” of illegal immigrants crossing the border.
Brian Hastings, chief of the RGV sector, said in a Twitter post after agents there made more than 20,000 arrests in a single week: “It’s the hottest part of the summer and apprehensions are skyrocketing!”
The CBP spokesperson added that officials in the Rio Grande Valley continue to expel illegal immigrants under Title 42 authority, a policy invoked by former President Donald Trump that allows for the expulsion of foreign nationals arriving from regions where there is a risk of contagious disease.
Cuellar told Fox News that he is aware of expulsions taking place under Title 42 and suggested the White House publicize this fact, presumably to discourage would be illegal border crossers.
“I support Title 42 especially right now,” Cuellar said. “They need to publicize and show images of people being deported: Because I ask you, Charles, have you seen one single picture of somebody being deported? No. I haven’t seen one. I see people coming in. But we’re not showing people being deported.”
“These numbers are not stopping and with all due respect to the administration, they need to put a pause on this now for the sake of our border communities,” Cuellar added.
The Biden administration initially planned to phase out Title 42 enforcement on July 31, but a Wednesday report from the Washington Post, citing anonymous “officials working on border policy,” indicated that these plans have been put on hold.
DHS did not immediately respond to a request for confirmation that Title 42 enforcement was being shelved.
Republicans have blamed Biden’s rollback of Trump-era policies for fueling the border surge, which they insist is a crisis, while members of the administration have sought to portray the spike in illegal crossings as a challenge, driven in part by seasonal factors.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.