How to solve the crisis at the U.S. border
Given the Biden administration’s unwillingness to address the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border, I traveled to Texas and New Mexico last week alongside my colleagues on the House Oversight and Reform Committee to assess the situation firsthand.
What we found was even more troubling than I could have imagined.
Inside the Customs and Border Patrol center in El Paso, agents processed children of all ages, many having traveled thousands of miles without their parents.
In one heartbreaking moment, a young boy–about the same age as my granddaughter –stood inconsolable in the doorway of a phone booth while trying to get a hold of his parents, still in their home country, to let them know he was okay.
During a roundtable with ranchers in New Mexico, we heard chilling stories that contrast the humanitarian crisis I saw in unaccompanied minors coming across ports of entry.
In rural sectors of the border, Americans face the dangerous realities of criminals trafficking drugs and people.
Members of the National Border Patrol Council informed our delegation that an estimated 60,000 individuals have illegally entered the United States and evaded capture in the last two months. That’s more than the population of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Among Border Patrol agents, morale is low. Agents are currently stretched dangerously thin, tasked with serving as social workers and detention guards in addition to patrolling 260 miles of border in El Paso alone.
As one agent told me, “It’s hard to do our job when you’re seeing kids suffering and being abused or being smuggled across and used as pawns. It’s hard when the media makes you out to be the bad guy. And it’s even harder when this current administration is making you out to be the bad guy.”
More than anything, the Biden administration’s lack of political will has allowed this crisis to persist.
One of President Biden’s first actions in the White House was to drastically scale down interior enforcement against illegal border crossings.
In his first days as president, Biden also issued a proclamation halting construction of the border wall and ended the Migrant Protection Protocols program, which required migrants to “remain in Mexico” while awaiting their asylum cases to be heard.
By reversing the Trump administration’s border policies, the Biden administration caved to partisan pressure without a plan of its own. The results have been disastrous.
Recent data shows that, of the 170,000 total border apprehensions recorded in March, a record 18,890 unaccompanied minors entered federal custody.
But dangerous criminals are also crossing the border, some heavily armed and seeking to harm Americans and evade border patrol.
Our delegation spoke with a family of ranchers who shared harrowing accounts of their workers being kidnapped, robbed, and violently beaten by criminal aliens and members of the Mexican drug cartels.
President Biden needs to understand that his policies have incentivized members of both groups to come to our country.
The border crisis is also a drug crisis.
Illicit drugs including deadly methamphetamines, cocaine, and fentanyl are trafficked across the border and end up in states across America where first responders, health care workers, and local law enforcement officers are already struggling to combat the problem.
President Biden could end this crisis tomorrow by sending a clear message that illegal immigration will not be tolerated.
By reversing the decision to cease construction of the border wall and reinstating the “remain in Mexico” policy, America can once again assert its strength while maintaining a compassionate approach to processing good-faith asylum claims.
These are actions that the administration can take immediately.
Doing so, as one agent told our delegation, would drastically enhance Border Patrol’s ability to protect the border and manage the influx of people entering our country illegally.
Neither action would require additional federal funding or an act of Congress.
In the days and weeks ahead, I will continue working with my colleagues on additional measures to solve the border crisis. We know we must enforce our existing laws, reinstate the Trump policies that worked, and stop the current incentives for illegal immigration.
But the first step to fixing a problem is admitting it exists.
It is time for the Biden administration to acknowledge the border crisis and carry out its duty to the American people.
Fred Keller is a member of the U.S. Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 12th District in northcentral and Central Pennsylvania.