Sen. Mike Lee says he’s personally witnessed how conditions at the southern U.S. border are deteriorating amid the growing immigration crisis there.
Lee is one of 18 Republican U.S. Senators currently visiting the U.S.-Mexico border area. He told Fox News Channel Friday morning he was shocked by what he’s seen.
“About midnight as we were standing right on the banks of the Rio Grande. We had drug smugglers, cartel members, people who are making $14 million dollars every single week while this crisis lasts, bringing people across the border illegally, subjecting them to untold privations, sexual abuse and other horrible things. They were yelling at us, taunting, taunting us, shinning high candlepower flashlights across the river at us, basically saying, we’re coming,” said Lee. Sen. Ted Cruz, who posted several videos on Twitter of the encounter.
Lee was critical of President Joe Biden’s response to the crisis, complaining the administration is doing more to stop American citizens from bringing the coronavirus back to the country from international travel than migrants trying to enter the country.
“This is unacceptable. It absolutely defies reason and logic that these are solvable problems. We should be able to send back unaccompanied minors who show up here on their own, send them back to their own countries,” said Lee, referencing the surge in children traveling to the United States on their own.
Biden was asked about the influx of migrants during his first news conference on Thursday. He was unapologetic for ending some of the Trump administration’s policies on immigration, including one that forced migrants to remain in Mexico until their immigration court hearing in the United States.
“Look, the idea that I’m going to say — which I would never do — ‘If an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let him starve to death and stay on the other side’ — no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it,” said Biden.
The increased number of children entering the country has led to overcrowding at some short-term facilities. Many of those children have remained in U.S. custody longer than the law provides for as officials struggle to deal with the overwhelming numbers.
Biden announced that the administration will open up 5,000 additional beds for unaccompanied minors at the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Lee is sponsoring legislation to address what he sees as loopholes that encourage immigrants to enter the country through sometimes risky means.
The bill would require that minors be detained as long as a parent was in custody rather than released after 20 days. It also allows release of an unaccompanied minor only to a parent or legal guardian.
It would require the swift deportation of unaccompanied children back to their home country unless they could prove they were human trafficking victims and have a credible fear of persecution.
Lee has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s refusal to let journalists visit some of those overcrowded border facilities, and said that’s why he decided to make the trip south.
“We’re going to have to tell the story for the country. We’re not journalists. We’re not good at any of that. But, if we’re the only Americans who can be allowed in there, we’re going to tell the story. We want to get to the bottom of what’s happening,” said Lee.