Several House members Saturday urged empathy for the thousands of migrants fleeing Central America for the U.S.-Mexico border after touring facilities in Texas that are processing and housing them.
Democrats on the tour said they reject the GOP narrative that the southern border is suddenly open under President Biden and migrants are villains bringing problems to the United States.
“We must change the narrative as quickly as we can,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. “These are not invaders. They’re not terrorists. They are individuals that have come to America.”
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Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, pushed back on the “nonsense” that borders are open and migrants are spreading coronavirus.
“It is false as it can be because every child is tested. If they happen to test positive, they’re immediately quarantined and they are not released anywhere until they test negative,” Garcia said.
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Garcia said adults are being sent home and it’s the population of unaccompanied minors that are not being expelled.
“This talk about … they’re letting anybody in is just false,” Garcia said. “In fact, they’re expelling adult males, they’re expelling adult women, and in fact we’re expelling families.”
The comments came Saturday at a news conference following a congressional delegation tour of the border. There were more than 18,000 unaccompanied minors in either Border Protection or Health and Human Services custody as of Thursday, according to DHS records.
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Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, led the congressional delegation tour of six fellow Democrats and one Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana.
They toured the El Paso Border Patrol Central Processing Center, the Paso del Norte Port of Entry and the Casa Franklin, a shelter operated by Health and Human Services (HHS) for unaccompanied children in El Paso.
The lawmakers talked of the heartbreak of seeing the children without parents who made a dangerous trip to the United States in hopes of finding a better life. They advocated for short-term and long-term changes to federal law to improve the federal immigration system and to address the root causes of families fleeing Central America.
Spartz, an immigrant from Ukraine, said she joined the trip of Democrats to have constructive conversations with her colleagues on solutions because inaction has gone on for too long.
We need to “actually deliver real solutions because people are tired,” Spartz said. “People are exhausted. We need to become an institution which can deliver good policy — an institution that actually works for the people of our country and not have drama, demagoguery [or] grandstanding.”
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The Escobar-led trip was one of several congressional delegations to the border this weekend. GOP senators led by Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn traveled to the Rio Grande Valley and Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, led a group of House Democrats to the facility for migrant children on Friday in Carrizo Springs.