AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Monday, six Republican state senators visited the border facility at Carrizo Springs and took a helicopter tour of the Rio Grande Valley with the Texas Department of Public Safety. State Senator Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) was among the visiting lawmakers.
The Carrizo Springs facility they visited hosts unaccompanied minors, specifically 13- to 17-year-old boys. At the time of their visit, the facility had reached its 700-person capacity. Kolkhorst said the facility treats the boys well, giving them three square meals a day during their 10 plus day stay.
Unaccompanied minors and other immigrants have been crossing the Texas-Mexico border in masses recently, travelling from countries such as Guatemala and Haiti. Democratic U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (Texas) visited the Carrizo Springs facility on Wednesday and said he was pleased with the health care and legal services the children are provided. Although Cuellar praised the Biden administration’s work at the border, he said more needs to be done to address conditions leading to the surge of people trying to cross into the United States.
Republicans, including Kolkhorst, blame President Joe Biden’s policies for creating the migration surge.
“You can pinpoint it to the presidential election, when you started to see that take off,” Kolkhorst said. “Under the Trump administration, they did have a rule which was called ‘A Stay in Mexico.’ So you had to stay in Mexico until you could get, you know, the proper hearing and so forth. And so, this has had a big influx when that rule was removed.”
Border control is a federal issue, so state lawmakers do not have control over the rules and regulations at the border. However, Kolkhorst is concerned about the issues new border laws may create, such as human trafficking or a strain on Texas’ resources.
“The messaging back to the other countries needs to be that this isn’t just an open border, because again, what you do to those children along the way, and what we’re doing is we’re enriching a lot of human traffickers,” Kolkhorst said.
“We will have, at this pace currently, somewhere between two and four million people cross the Texas border,” Kolkhorst said. “That is a startling number.”
With the influx of new migrants, concerns about COVID spread arise. However, with so many issues popping up during the last few months, state lawmakers have not spent much time on pandemic-related legislation.
“You come into the session you think COVID is going to be the main driver, but then you had the winter storm Yuri, you had the ERCOT breakdown of the grid, and so [COVID] really has kind of taken second seat,” Kolkhorst said.
The increase in vaccinated Texans has given Kolkhorst the peace of mind to believe the worst of the pandemic is over. Since the state reopened at the beginning of the month, the Capitol has welcomed citizens in to share their opinions on upcoming legislation.
“I’m extremely pleased to start to see people in our hallways and people testifying on bills, and the process working again,” Kolkhorst said. “And what really worried me coming into session was limiting the public’s voice. But I’m starting to see that voice appear in the hallways, and in our committee rooms, and in my office.”