On Friday I went to the southern border of Texas has 1200 miles of common border with with Mexico. And obviously we're Ground Zero, whenever there is a border crisis. I was glad to be joined by my friend, Congressman Henry Quasar who has been a partner of mine on bipartisan, bicameral border security and immigration reform legislation in the past. And we were also joined by Congressman Michael Burgess our friend from North Texas. We visited a holding facility in Carrizo springs which houses, young boys aged 13 through 17 who were apprehended along the border. We were able to see the facility, which includes medical care classroom space dining facilities and legal services for these, these young men, and we heard from the Health and Human Services, workers who are doing everything they can to care for these children. Despite being completely overwhelmed. When we visited there were 679 children between the ages of 13 and 17, but the facility is expected to reach capacity by today. This is no accident that we're seeing waves of unaccompanied minors coming across the border because the human smugglers and the drug traffickers understand our laws, perhaps better than we do. And they know that if you're able to flood the zone with unaccompanied children that the Border Patrol are going to be distracted and diverted from their border security mission to take care of these children, and to make sure that they are safe. In the meantime, the drug smugglers, exploit those gaps left when the Border Patrol leaves the front lines to handle and process these unaccompanied children. Last year, more than 80,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in this country. And unfortunately, a significant percentage of that involves the methamphetamine. The fentanyl, and the heroin and the cocaine that comes up through the southern southern border in the hands of the same criminal organizations that move people trafficking, human beings, and again, smuggle drugs in the two months since President Biden took office, the situation along the border has come to rival the largest surges that we've seen in previous years. We remember the border crisis of 2014. When an alarming number of unaccompanied children and family came across the southern border, and completely overwhelmed the system that situation. That summer, the situation was so dire that President Obama called it a humanitarian crisis. Then came the surge in 2019 that may Customs and Border Protection reported a record breaking 144,000 encounters with migrants along the southwest border. More than double the amount we experienced during the 2014 humanitarian crisis. So as of 2014 was a humanitarian crisis 2019 was a humanitarian crisis on steroids. And I'm afraid the current situation is going to get nothing but worse. And perhaps it outpaced even the humanitarian crisis on steroids that we saw in 2019. What makes this even more complicated is while this isn't the first surge of migrants we've seen across the border. It is the first time we've seen it during a COVID 19 pandemic. And based on the current trend. This one is shaping up to be far worse than anything we've experienced in the past. Last month, Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 100 and 1000 100,000 individuals coming across the border. The highest number since 2006.
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out of those 100,000 individuals last month, included 9000 unaccompanied children and 19,000 migrants coming across as families, that is some combination of mother and father and minor children, based on the sheer numbers. This is a problem, it is overwhelming the capacity, physical capacity to house and tend to kick take care of these children, and to make sure that these individuals are processed according to the Law Order patrol and health and human services and our immigration courts do not have the capacity to manage an influx is large. And when you add the operational challenges and risks associated with a COVID 19 pandemic, it becomes even more difficult to house and care for these migrants, especially the children. The facilities like Carrizo springs are currently, excuse me were previously at a 40% capacity to allow for social distancing something we've heard a lot about the last year, but the number of unaccompanied children has climbed so high that the Biden ministration is now allowing those facilities to operate at 100% capacity, despite the obvious risk of spreading COVID-19 because of a failure, or inability to socially distance. At one point last week, there were more than 3700 children in the custody of the Border Patrol. By comparison, there were about 2600 children in custody at the peak of the 2019 crisis. So the numbers are significantly higher reports over the weekend show that the number is increased of more than 4200 With nearly 3000 held beyond the 72 hour legal limit imposed by a court settlement. While these migrant children are without a doubt the biggest victims of this crisis, there are cascading consequences in Brownsville alone, more than 200 migrants were released from the border patrol's custody, having tested positive for COVID 19 200 positive for COVID-19 ushered into the, into the, into the country. So despite the obvious health risks, many of these individuals continued their travels to their ultimate destinations, both within and outside the state of Texas. Some traveled we know as far north as Maryland, North Carolina and New Jersey. And this rapid pace catch and release. Practice places a serious strain on the resources of our border communities. During the deadly winter storm last month, the mayor of Del Rio pleaded for the administration to stop releasing migrants into the city and surrounding area. The city's capacities were already stretched thin and Mayor Bruno Lozano said, we will be forced to make a decision to leave them without resources under these dire circumstances. The president's chief of staff was asked recently about the border crisis in a recent interview, he said, We inherited a real mess. Well, that's not the way I see it. The policies, the administration inherited deterred the human smugglers the coyotes and cartels from even attempting to smuggle children into the United States, particularly during the COVID 19 pandemic. They required under the migrant protection program for migrants to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims for being processed course by the administration, as in sort of a reflexive manner reversed all of the previous administration's policies without any plan to put in its place, and without regard to the consequences.
migrant Protection Plan, which was negotiated with the government of Mexico worked pretty well. It allowed order communities to know that they wouldn't have to bear the brunt of 1000s of migrants coming across the border into their communities while simultaneously battling a pandemic. So Madam President, the Biden administration didn't inherit this mess. It helped created President Biden campaign, on the basis of policies that would lead to this very outcome. One woman across the Rio Grande, on a smuggler's Raph said the Biden administration is the reason she and her one year old son attempted the journey at all. She said, they gave us the opportunity to come and come they did, whether you call this a mess. As of the president's chief of staff did or a human challenge, as the Secretary of Homeland Security did. I can tell you one thing, unless the Biden administration reverses course, it will only get worse. We usually see the
numbers of migration happened during the springtime, and then in the early summer, because frankly because of the weather and the ease of passage. So we haven't seen nothing yet, compared to what we will see unless action is taken. During my visit last Friday, one of the people involved in the operation of the Carrizo springs facility, said, this is a category five hurricane, with a tropical storm force winds on the coast. It is coming. Well, we've seen this before, as I said many times, in fact, and unless action is taken to stem the flow of migrants who cross the border that category five hurricane is going to break the entire system. In my time in the Senate, I've always looked at the men and women on the ground. The border patrol who wear green uniforms the customs and border protection officials wear blue uniforms. I've looked at them to learn more about how things are going and how Congress, and other policymakers can provide support. As I said we share a 1200 mile border with Mexico, and our border communities are made up of incredible networks of law enforcement, local leaders, nongovernmental organizations who work together to help keep the migrants safe, as well as communities safe. Many of them are motivated solely by their humanitarian impulses, and we couldn't do, as well as we are doing without them. One frustration I've heard in recent weeks is over a vaccine distribution for Border Patrol and other federal officers who have no choice but to come in contact with COVID-19 Positive migrants coming across the border. These men and women. Federal employees. Federal law enforcement officers are at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 because of their work with detained and vulnerable populations. We know that more than 8000 Customs and Border Protection, employees have tested positive for COVID 19 and 27 have died since the start of the pandemic, more than 2800 of these 8000 cases have been in my state of Texas. But despite this knowledge, the administration has not made vaccinating these men and women on the front line, a priority. Last week, Senator cinema of Arizona and I sent a letter to Secretary Mayorkas to advocate for Border Patrol and the Department of Homeland Security's other federal law enforcement officers to be prioritized for vaccination. I'm glad to announce that the administration responded by opening a vaccination clinic in the Rio Grande Valley which is a great first step. But law enforcement across the entire border, deserve to be vaccinated as soon as possible. If the administration is going to implement policies that create even more dangerous to
these frontline officers and agents the very least they can do is offer them protection from COVID-19. After visiting the Carrizo springs facility Congressman quasar, and I traveled to Laredo, Texas, where we met with a group of mayors, county judges, and a range of community leaders for leaders for a discussion on the ways this crisis is impacting them. We discussed the bumbled mess of the immigration courts, which have a backlog of 1.2 million cases. And in fact, this human smugglers and drug cartels know that because of our laws and our failure to offer consequences associated with the illegal entry in the United States, that we will never get to those 1.2 million backlog cases, and that people can simply evade the law by refusing to show up for their court appointed date. Well, we talked about the how the biggest beneficiaries of the crisis, weren't the migrants crossing the border, but rather the transnational criminal organizations the cartels the human smugglers and the coyotes, who bring them here. Border Patrol told me the average smuggling fee for cartels, to bring a single unaccompanied child into the Del Rio sector was more than $7,300 $7,300, per child. The chief of the Border Patrol sector they're in Del Rio told me that, Just this year, they have detained people from 54 separate countries 54 separate countries coming through the Del Rio sector of the Border Patrol. So this is like the United Nations, coming across our border. and, frankly, it's such a financially rewarding business for the human smugglers in the criminal networks that literally bring people from anywhere around the world, across our southern border into the United States, and that audit concern all of us. Well,