Democratic lawmakers from southern border states are saying President Joe Biden is failing them in addressing the migrant surge.
Both Democratic senators from Arizona have backed Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s deployment of 500 National Guard soldiers to the U.S.-Mexico border. On Wednesday, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said the state’s resources, which are in addition to existing federal law enforcement on the border, are not enough to handle the rising number of people illegally crossing in the Tucson and Yuma regions of the state.
“It’s clear that not enough is being done,” Sinema said. “Arizona is bearing the brunt of this crisis because of the federal government’s failure to address immigration issues over the last three decades.”
Sinema and Sen. Mark Kelly asked Biden to reimburse the state for the $25 million they expect the National Guard deployment to cost, but they have yet to hear back from the White House.
“I’ve been down to the border, Douglas and Yuma. I’ve talked to sheriffs and mayors and the two sector chiefs and their leadership teams. We’ve got a problem,” Kelly told reporters on Thursday. “The federal government has failed on this issue for decades now. Washington has to do better, and Arizonans are fed up. So, I’m just going to call it like I see it.”
On Thursday, Biden officials told reporters that Congress should take action on immigration issues. Sinema already has, proposing a bipartisan bill in April with Republicans that calls on the Biden administration to set up regional processing facilities along the 2,000-mile border that are better suited than Border Patrol stations to handle asylum-seeking families and children.
Sinema said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas personally committed to her that he would address the concerns of Arizona border communities.
“What I’m waiting for is the administration to take bold action to actually address these concerns,” Sinema told radio station KTAR News on Thursday.
Out east in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Laredo, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar is upset with how the Biden administration is portraying the border crisis. This past week, DHS released photos of Border Patrol’s Donna facility, a series of tents to hold children and families after they are initially taken into custody. The pictures revealed near-empty rooms compared to in March, when border authorities allowed the facility to become extremely overcrowded in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. A congresswoman who toured the Donna border facility in March said it was holding 5,700 people despite its 250-person capacity.
Cuellar said the photos are misleading the public because the children are all still in custody several hundred feet away at nearby tents operated by the Department of Health and Human Services.
“All they’re doing is they’re moving kids from one tent to the other tent and saying, ‘Oh, they’re not in the Border Patrol (custody),’ but they’re right next door,” Cuellar toldBorder Report. “They’re just next door in HHS.”
Biden addressed the border during a recent NBC interview, saying his administration had “gotten control” of the international boundary.
“It’s not,” Cuellar said in a Fox News interview, reacting to Biden’s claim. “To say that we have everything under control, you know. I’m supportive of President Biden. I’m a supporter of his, but we’re not paying attention to the border’s communities. … And it’s not under control. I can tell you that.”
In March, 172,000 people attempted to cross the border illegally between ports of entry or at the ports. It was the highest rate in 15 years. More than 18,000 of the 172,000 were children who crossed without parents, marking the highest number ever documented in U.S. history.