Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has detailed how a Republican Senate delegation to the border, led by him, encountered human traffickers and cartel members yelling at them and taunting law enforcement — as they saw the crisis at the border up close.
“We have been listening to and seeing cartel members, human traffickers right on the other side of the river, waving flashlights yelling and taunting Americans, taunting the Border Patrol because they know under the current policies of the Biden administration they can flood over here,” Cruz said in a video.
“They’re getting paid $4-5000 a person to smuggle them into the country and… when they smuggle them in, the Biden administration releases them,” he said.
Republicans have been turning up the heat on the Biden administration over its handling of the surge at the border. They say that rapid reversals of Trump-era policies, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), and a narrowing of deportation priorities have encouraged migrants to make the often-dangerous journey north.
Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins also tweeted Friday that she was among the lawmakers who spent three hours with agents on the night shift in McAllen.
“Border Patrol is overwhelmed, overworked, & discouraged by new policies,” Collins tweeted. “Agents took us through a dangerous path to the Rio Grande where we could hear the Cartel members taunting us across the river. Human trafficking, child abuse, & drug smuggling are rampant. This is a crisis.”
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered more than 100,000 migrants in February and that number is expected to have risen in March. There are currently more than 5,000 migrants in CBP custody and more than 11,000 in Health and Human Services (HHS) custody, and the administration is seeking to open more facilities in a scramble to house them.
Republicans have also raised questions about the lack of media access to facilities, a move that has contributed to a number of lawmakers making the journey to the border to see the situation in person.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas earlier this month admitted that the numbers were “overwhelming” and predicted the U.S. would encounter more migrants than it has in the last 20 years.
But the Biden administration has refused to call the situation a crisis, instead referring to it as a “challenge” as it seeks to move to what it describes as a more “humane” system.
On Thursday, during his first press conference since taking office in January, President Biden downplayed the surge and said he made “no apologies” for reversing programs like MPP.
“It happens every single solitary year,” he said about the numbers. “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March.”