Daines on Southern Border – a crisis that is just getting worse
The following is a direct transcription of Senator Steve Daines' comments as he was preparing to board a plane departing from the Rio Grande security zone and headed to McAllen, Texas just after 3:00 p.m. on Friday.
‘We just finished up the border tour minutes ago and I'm waiting to get my flight out of the McAllen Texas, but it's been a very informative 24 hours. We had the opportunity last night after we arrived and there were 18 Senators on this trip.
And after we arrived in McAllen, Texas, we were taken by Border Patrol about 10:30 pm last evening, and we went right down to the border with the COVID Rio Grande Valley sector along the Rio Grande River. We were there until about 12:30 am this morning.
And what we saw last night was very troubling.
Literally, as we walked down to some dirt trails, down to the edge of the river. We could hear Mexican cartel members with their flashlights with very powerful floodlights that were shining. And back at us from the Mexican side. They didn't know that it was US Senators on the on the border, they assumed we were Border Patrol agents, but they were taunting us and they were threatening.
Because they feel so confident with what's going on at the moment in terms of an open southern border that is just lawless. And sadly, these Mexican cartels are charging thousands of dollars per person to come across the southern border. And so they usher them across in rafts, and it's a very, very lucrative business. So we saw that firsthand last night.
The other thing that struck me last night was as we were just about getting to the river, we were driving in a couple of SUVs with Border Patrol agents. They showed us signs that have been put up that direct the illegal immigrants where to go once they cross the U.S. border so they can be apprehended and begin to be processed. Literally, there was a yellow arrow on the trail that showed where they should go, there were signs constructed, telling them where to go.
We visited one of these makeshift centers literally underneath a freeway or a highway bridge, where we saw mothers and children in pens who were was overflowing. It was a make shift area because they are so overwhelmed with the number of people coming on board. They can't handle them all. They made a decision a couple of days ago, that they aren't even trying to make appointments for the court asylum claims. They're just turning them loose on an honor system because they just flat out don't have the human power to administer the flood of illegals coming across.
We caught a few hours of sleep last night, and then we got back out first thing this morning with Border Patrol. And we went to the 'Donna' facility , and those were probably the most troubling images that we saw. This is a tent city they've constructed where it is designed for 1000 people, but with COVID protocols, the maximum capacity is 250. When we were there this morning, there were 4,200 people in that facility. There were a lot of children. There were a lot of moms; we could see children from ages from infants up to six, seven years old. We saw teenagers there. It was heartbreaking.
They were in a clear plastic temporary wall so you could see through, and they were literally laying next to each other. If not directly touching at the most in the a couple inches apart just as far as you can see across these rooms.
Then we were later told when they get ready to then to move the children and these minors from that location to the next place they go, they do a COVID test, and they're seeing at least a 10% positive rate. In fact, we saw young people who had just tested positive for COVID, over one side of a fenced area, and the others on the on another side so that the positive tests for these young people is higher, much higher than the average you're seeing right now in the Rio Grande Valley area.
But there's a 1.2 million person backlog at the moment for asylum claims.
Why is this happening? What's caused this? Let me be very, very clear. The Border Patrol agents over and over again, every one of them we spoke with, told us it's a very clear cause and effect from what happened on January 20th, when sadly, even though Border Patrol had warned the Biden administration, they warned the transition team not to reverse the Remain in Mexico policy. Well, they did, and that is what is causing this flood coming primarily from Central America because up until that point, we were seeing the lowest number of apprehensions on the on the southwest border in 45 years, we hit a 45 year low in 2020.
Now, the projections and even Secretary Mayorkas of the Biden administration said last week that there are expecting a 20 year high in apprehensions as a direct result of the Biden administration's decision to overturn some policies that the Trump administration put in place that were working in removing the incentive to make that very dangerous trip from Central America up to our border.
The other thing was clear to me today was the flood of meth, fentanyl and heroin that's coming across the southern border from the Mexican cartels. The border agents told us that when they are having to spend so much time with their limited staff, trying to apprehend illegals coming across the border, as well as taking care of the children and parents and others who are in these temporary holding facilities, it takes away personnel that wouldn't be on the front lines, either securing the border from illegal crossings and criminals or trying to work on drug interdiction.
They've they showed us a recent meth seizure they had right here in the sector, that a street value of over $2 million was quite recent.
So it definitely affects Montana, as I told the border patrol agents and I told the folks down here we are a northern border state in Montana that has a southern border crisis. And I think what many Montanans are scratching their heads about is why is it so hard for a U.S. citizen to get back into the country, and it's so easy for somebody from Central America or Mexico to get into our country, because if you are a U.S. citizen, and you leave the country, you are required to have a passport and a COVID test to get back in. Obviously, that's not the case right now on the southern border, and worse, we're going to see this crisis continue on the southern border only get worse.
Nobody down here is optimistic that its going to get any better, unless the policies fundamentally change.’
Senator Daines will be heading back to Washington, D.C. after his visit to the southern border.