Republican lawmakers on Wednesday challenged President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to “get some backbone” and tour the crisis at the US-Mexico border — following a review of their own that saw such troubling scenes as a detention center pod holding more than 15 times the child migrants for which it’s meant.
The GOP contingent slammed the Biden administration for enacting policy that has allowed tens of thousands of Central American migrants to flock to the border in recent months, while waving off calls for Biden or Harris to travel to the border to face the fallout.
“Whether you’re American or Mexican or Guatemalan, it doesn’t matter,” said Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) during a briefing in Edinburg, Tex. “These are our children. And we have an administration that does not have the backbone to come down here and give encouragement to these great men and women [of US Border Patrol] who are doing the job and are being overwhelmed right now.
“They don’t have the backbone to come see the misery that their policy is giving to these boys and girls, babies, men and women, who take that trip,” he continued. “To President Biden and Vice President Harris, get some backbone. Get some compassion. Come down to the border to see what mess you’ve made down here that we’re trying to fight to save our nation.”
Several contingents of congressional representatives have now traveled to the border to review conditions and urge the Biden administration to act, but neither the president nor the vice president themselves have made the trip, despite both saying that they would.
In the interim, migrants have continued to undertake the dangerous trek to the border, among them unaccompanied children who end up confined to cramped, jail-like detention facilities for days at a time while awaiting transfer to federal shelters elsewhere.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) offered disturbing insight into just how packed those facilities have become under the crush of migrants.
“Yesterday we saw at the Donna [Texas] facility one pod which is supposed to, under current COVID protocols, house at a maximum 33 children,” he said. “And yet there were 527 kids in that pod alone.
“So when they say this is chaos and unlike anything we have ever seen, that is true.”
Aside from the troubling health and humanitarian implications of the overwhelming amount of new arrivals, lawmakers noted that caring for the children has diverted resources away from the border itself, allowing more migrants to slip across in a self-feeding cycle.
“Forty percent of our Border Patrol agents are busy processing people and changing diapers,” said Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.). “It means that they cannot do their job protecting the borders.”
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) warned that the effects of the mass immigration won’t be confined to the southwest for long.
“The most chilling words that I have heard in this entire trip were spoken by a Border Patrol agent who reminded us,’Our border is your border,'” he said.
“These illegal immigrants don’t stay and congregate in border towns. They’re on their way to communities all across the country.… The terrible impact this will have on public safety, local schools, local resources, housing supply, public schools, hospital emergency rooms and the ability of working-class Americans to earn a living will be keenly felt in every community in our country unless these policies change.”
The Republicans squarely put the responsibility of stemming the tide squarely on the Biden administration.
Asked about reported internal Biden administration considerations about filling in “gaps” in the border wall — despite Biden frequently trashing the pet project of then-President Trump as a White House aspirant — Jordan said that such a move would be a start.
“Let’s hope it’s more than’consider,’ because we know it works,” he said. “Walls force the people who are coming to come to ports of entry where you can actually process and look at things in a legal way.
“So let’s hope that that is not just talk.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said earlier Wednesday that the administration continues to oppose the wall ideologically, and that any possible further construction would only be undertaken out of a legal obligation due to funding already having been allocated prior to the Biden presidency.