Romney, Stewart blame Biden and Democrats for border crisis

Thousands of unaccompanied minors overwhelming the Biden administration’s ability to respond.

Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Chris Stewart are criticizing the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with a surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week the United States faces the biggest surge of migrants in the past two decades, including hundreds of youths under 18 who are crossing the border alone every day. Those minors are not being turned away, which has created a massive backlog as border agents are struggling to turn them over to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Romney tweeted Monday morning that allowing those minors to stay in the U.S. will fuel more border crossings by youths, adding to the growing crisis.

“The Biden administration’s lack of understanding of the power of incentives continues to baffle me: allowing unaccompanied minors to stay in the U.S. will yield a flood of unaccompanied minors,” he wrote. “It’s de facto ‘child separation policy.’”

That message seemed somewhat at odds with comments Romney made in a video presentation just three days ago at a conference of the American Business Immigration Coalition.

“There’s no question we need to ensure compassionate care for these children as a result of the crisis at the border,” he told the group. He went on, however, to emphasize the pressing need to do more to secure the border, “including a visible barrier.”

The U.S. government is housing more than 15,000 unaccompanied migrant minors. Thousands of those teenagers and children are housed in tent facilities along the border. CBS News reported those children are being held on average for 136 hours before they’re turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services. That time frame is more than the 72-hour limit for holding migrant minors specified in U.S. law.

Over the weekend, Rep. Chris Stewart criticized the majority Democrats in Congress for not taking action to address the issue, arguing they’re focused on other issues.

HR1 is the massive voting rights bill that Sen. Mike Lee said was “written by the devil himself.” HR5, also known as the Equality Act, amends the 1964 Civil Rights Act to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HR8 expands background checks for gun purchases.

Republicans in Congress say the spike in migrants at the border was sparked by President Joe Biden’s promise to undo some of the immigration policies of his predecessor. Biden ended some of the more hard-line policies from the Trump administration, but he said last week in an interview that migrants should not make the journey to the United States.

“Don’t come over,” he said. “Don’t leave your town or city or community.”

That stance was echoed by Mayorkas on Sunday, who said the U.S.-Mexico border is closed. “The message is quite clear: Do not come,” he said. “We are encouraging children not to come. Now is not the time to come.”

In his speech to the pro-immigration business group in Arizona on Friday, Romney recognized issues with illegal immigration and with the legal immigration system are “long-standing problems.”

“These issues will continue until Congress comes together in a bipartisan manner to enact comprehensive and permanent reforms that don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

— Tribune politics editor Dan Harrie contributed to this report.