Two freshman Florida GOP House members joined Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on a tour of the U.S-Mexico southern border near El Paso Monday, turning up the heat on President Biden to act on the overwhelming surge of undocumented migrants flooding the border due to his administration lax immigration policies.
“The security of our nation and our border is first and foremost the responsibility of our president. I came down here because I heard of the crisis. It’s more than a crisis — this is human heartbreak,” McCarthy said after GOP lawmakers toured the El Paso Central Processing Center in El Paso, Texas.
“It didn’t have to happen. This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration. There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis,” McCarthy added.
Both Florida Reps. Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez spoke in both English and Spanish to implore fellow Hispanic-Americans to speak out about the border crisis amid concerns over the high risk of children being trafficked.
“We have a problem and we need to be part of the solution. We need to join forces and send the message that we cannot allow what’s happening on the border,” Salazar said. “It’s our girls — Hondurans, Guatemalans, Nicaraguans — are the ones who are being raped. It’s our girls the ones that children who are being trafficked. I’m not sure that you know that sex child, sex trafficking is one of the highest international crimes booming in this country.”
“I ask my community not only Miami, but across the country, the Hispanic Americans, to send a message to your representatives. We need to stop being pawns of the politicians in Washington and pawns of the traffickers who are trafficking with our children, our families, and our women. So it’s a time for us to rise up and send a message, something that we haven’t done before, loud and clear to your representatives, whether Republicans or Democrats. It doesn’t matter. It’s a problem that belongs to all Americans, including the Hispanic Americans in this country,” Salazar added.
🚨 I’m at the border 🚨
We’re facing a Human Trafficking crisis! pic.twitter.com/wgv9OFoDss
— Rep. María Elvira Salazar (@RepMariaSalazar) March 15, 2021
Ahead of the GOP visit, CBS News reported Sunday that more than 4,200 unaccompanied migrant children were being held in the short-term holding facilities, with nearly 3,000 of the unaccompanied children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody had been held longer than 72 hours. The records show that unaccompanied minors are spending an average of 117 hours in a Border Patrol facility, a place Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas declared “is no place for a child.”
The new number on Sunday represents a 31% increase from the week prior when CBP was holding more than 3,200 minors, the number NY Times reported last week based on leaked documents. Migrant children are supposed to be moved from the short-term facilities within 72 hours. Those detention facilities are considered inhumane, jail-like situation and are not suited for long-term containment. In one document, more than 8,100 unaccompanied migrant children are still being held at border facilities managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and have only space for less than 850 more children. Based on the surge of unaccompanied migrant children detained, shelters are now less than 13 days away from reaching “maximum capacity.”
Gimenez recalled a conversation he just had with a family that traveled 22 days from Honduras to the border, saying the family decided to make the “harrowing” trek across after hearing Biden rhetoric and “change of policy” after taking office.
“Hispanics across the nation, we need to think about, ‘Hey, we’re putting our own people’s lives at risk because of this policy,'” Gimenez said. “I ask the president, reverse the policy, restore some of the agreements that you had with Central American countries and Mexico to make sure that we disincentivize people from coming here in an illegal fashion, being the pawns of traffickers, human traffickers. They’re the ones that are making all the money on this. They’re the ones that are profiting from this trafficking that’s happening right now.”
It’s time for Nancy Pelosi and the Biden Administration to get serious on securing the border. pic.twitter.com/OdAJo0ImwF
— Congressman Carlos A. Gimenez (@RepCarlos) March 15, 2021
The trip comes as the Biden administration is facing an influx of migrant children coming to the border as there is limited facilities to hold them. In addition, the trip comes as the House this week plans to take up two immigration bills that would create a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children (American Dream and Promise Act), and for farm workers (Farm Workforce Modernization Act).
The American Dream and Promise Act would create a pathway to legal status for “Dreamers,” and grant conditional permanent resident status for 10 years and cancel removal proceedings if people meet certain requirements. Under the legislation, “Dreamers” could gain full lawful permanent resident status by either acquiring a degree from college, completing at least two years of military service or being employed for at least three years where they had employment authorization for 75% of the time they were employed.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act ould create a process to earn temporary status as Certified Agricultural Workers for individuals who have worked at least 180 days in agriculture over the past 2 years. Spouses and children could also apply for temporary status under the act. The legislation would also create a pathway for workers to get a green card by paying a $1,000 fine and engaging in additional agricultural wor, streamlining the process for one to obtain an H-2A visa, that allows foreign citizens into the country for temporary agricultural work.
The two House bill are separate from Biden’s comprehensive immigration plan – the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 – an aggressive immigration reform focusing on three overarching initiatives — path to citizenship, provisions to address the causes of migration, and border enforcement by using technology for security measures.
Biden’s proposed legislation that was suppose to be sent to Congress on Day One, calls for a faster pathway to citizenship in recent years for the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Under the plan, the eight-year path to citizenship would offer undocumented immigrants to become eligible for legal permanent resident status after five years, and for U.S. citizenship after an additional three years.
On Monday, the Biden administration announced a new detention center, using the Dallas convention center as a temporary shelter for thousands of migrant teenage boys for up to 90 days. The emergency measure is meant to free up space in Border Patrol detention cells that are holding record numbers of unaccompanied teenagers and children in deteriorating conditions