EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — While images of children sleeping on the floor at Border Patrol processing stations today may shock Americans, they don’t compare to the humanitarian migrant crisis of two years ago, a border congresswoman says.
“I recall in 2019, the stories of families and children and Border Patrol agents running to a 7-Eleven to buy burritos they’d warm up in microwaves in their break rooms, and that was inadequate,” said U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “This is still not acceptable; kids shouldn’t be in Border Patrol custody very long, but at the very least now they have clean clothes, showers, toiletries and hot food. It’s far more humane than what we saw two years ago.”
Escobar and McAllen Mayor Jim Darling addressed the migrant surge that’s drawn the eyes of America to the U.S.-Mexico border at an online forum Wednesday hosted by The Texas Tribune.
While Escobar praised the Biden administration’s response to the migrant “challenge,” Darling expressed some misgivings.
“I just thought the administration should’ve been better prepared to handle this, and when you talk to the Border Patrol people, they weren’t ready for this, either,” he said. “It’s terrible that kids (are) housed like that, but by the same token, requiring by court order to release them within 72 hours without (doing) authentication, who they’re going to and where they’re going to doesn’t make any sense.”
Darling, a New York native who’s a Vietnam veteran, also lamented the politics that surround the issue. “It’s not quite a running joke but it’s too bad” that Republicans tour the border and focus on beleaguered law enforcement officers and Democrats come to tour shelters, he said. Then both sides hold press conferences to push their point, go back to Washington and “don’t talk to each other.”
But the two border leaders agree on several fronts, including the need for the federal government to provide or reimburse resources to border communities facing what some call a migrant crisis, not delegating the problem on Mexico and pushing for a dialogue with Latin American nations to address the root causes of the latest surge.
“Whatever happens on the border with the United States also happens in Mexico. When we release (migrants) to Mexico, the mayor of Reynosa has to deal with that on her side because she doesn’t have transportation (to take them) back to Central America,” Darling said.
He recalled how during the migrant crisis of 2019 migrants were sleeping in public squares and people’s doorways on the Mexican side and wondering who would feed them. “It becomes an international problem,” he stressed.
Escobar blamed the Trump administration for pushing the 2018-2019 migrant problem “out of sight and out of mind” by sending or keeping migrants in Mexico.
“As we continue to see numbers grow, because this is not going to be a challenge that goes away, we’ve got to be able to do several things effectively,” she said. That includes expanding shelter space for migrant children, receiving people at the border in a “more human way” and address migration push factors.
Asked what those push factors are, Escobar mentioned poverty, drought and hurricanes that have devastated small farms in Central America.
She and Darling also mentioned the manipulation of drug cartels trying to make a profit at the expense of families seeking a better life.
“I can’t believe that many of these trafficking organizations have operated with impunity … Governments there have known who they are, what they’re doing and have turned a blind eye. Those have to be addressed,” Escobar said.
Darling also mentioned corruption as a push factor for migration and suggested ameliorating the crisis by having the U.S. offer more workers visas.
“You’re talking about workers programs that help economically in most countries,” he said. “Over here, we got tons of job openings and can’t (get) Americans willing to do them in the construction industry, in the farming industry,” he said.