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Senator Ernst Visits Texas-Mexico Border

The Iowa Senator saw firsthand the humanitarian crisis at the border and reiterated the need for border security and sweeping changes to the broken immigration system

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrapped up a firsthand visit to the Southern Border in McAllen, Texas, including a number of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the crisis we’re facing at our southern border is real,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Facilities are over capacity, the backlogs in asylum processing are skyrocketing, and our border patrol agents—who serve tirelessly 24/7—are being forced to forgo their enforcement duties due to the mass influx of migrants coming to our doorstep.

“The situation is tough and addressing it will not be easy nor will it happen overnight. Congress has taken a step toward helping the situation, and in a bipartisan way, by providing emergency funding for migrant care. As I saw this weekend, these funds have helped give additional support and resources to the facilities. But there is so much more work to be done.

“Providing care to migrants is a non-negotiable, but so is securing our border and permanently fixing the loopholes that exist in our current immigration system. Iowans across the state see and feel the effects of the tremendous flow of drugs pouring into this country, and we can all agree that this humanitarian crisis has to be remedied. Congress must act, and must do so now—and that includes our Democratic colleagues who are nowhere to be found when it comes to solutions to fixing this crisis.”

Ernst spent all of Sunday, July 21, in McAllen, Texas and the surrounding area along the border. Starting at the Hidalgo Port of Entry, Ernst heard from DHS officials about the technology used to process citizens and non-citizens across the border and stop weapons and drug flow. During this stop, Ernst was able to tour the Port’s facility where they begin processing migrants who have come to the border seeking asylum.

Following the visit and discussion at the Hidalgo Port of Entry, Ernst toured and met with employees at Upbring New Hope, a non-government organization that partners with HHS to house, care for, and educate unaccompanied minors. This facility houses approximately 45-50 children at a time, with a maximum capacity of 60 children, and provides around-the-clock care to the children.

After the stop at Upbring, Ernst visited one of the new temporary facilities that CBP has created to help process and house illegal migrants. This specific facility was called the Donna Holding Facility (DHF), and, according to CBP officials, costs $20 million a month to rent. During the visit to this facility, Ernst saw migrant families being processed during their asylum claim and had the chance to hear from CBP agents about the cause and need for additional facilities like DHF, including the fact that the other facilities housing these migrants are at or over capacity.

Senator Ernst at the DHF hearing from CBP officials about the temporary facility.

Following the visit to the DHF, Senator Ernst received a briefing from DHS and CBP officials at the McAllen Border Patrol Station. This briefing included details of the drug trafficking that goes on along the border, and the schemes of the Mexican drug cartels. In addition, officials explained how children are being bought and used as a tool to get across the border. Also during this briefing, Senator Ernst was able to dialogue with CBP officials about the overall ways to address this crisis, including the need for additional asylum officers and judges.

Senator Ernst receiving a briefing from CPB officials.

Immediately after the briefing, Ernst toured the McAllen Border Patrol Station command center and processing area. This included discussions about the technologies used to help agents complete their enforcement missions along the border and in the field. In addition, Ernst saw a facility that was at its maximum capacity for migrants. CBP walked her through the facility, outlining the way the migrants are being housed, cared for, and processed. There are single adult males and single adult females cared for at this facility.

Senator Ernst talking with DHS officials at the McAllen Border Patrol Station.

The next stop on the visit was to the Rio Grande Valley Centralized Process Center (CPC). The facility included separate holding centers for single adult males; single adult females; unaccompanied male minors; unaccompanied female minors; single fathers and their child or children; and single mothers and their child or children.

Senator Ernst at the Rio Grande Valley CPC.

The final portion of the visit to the border included a ride-along with CBP officers and the Special Operations Detachment. This began around sundown and continued well into the night. Throughout the ride-along, Ernst was able to ask questions of CBP officials about their work out in the field. As part of the ride-along, Senator Ernst was briefed by Special Operations Border Patrol for McAllen, Texas. These agents have additional responsibilities, including helping to curb the flow of drug and human trafficking.

Senators Ernst, Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and James Lankford (R-OK) with CBP agents.

Senator Ernst meeting with Border Patrol Special Operations agents.