CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., is describing tours of federal facilities near the southern border as “greatly beneficial” as lawmakers search for answers in addressing an increase in migrants attempting to enter the country.
Capito was part of a bipartisan group of senators that toured federal facilities near El Paso, Texas, on Friday, which included visiting a Customs and Border Protection’s processing center and a Department of Health and Human Services’ refugee shelter.
Capito’s trip came as Republicans ramp up pressure on President Joe Biden to address the surge. Customs and Border Protection reports a 174% increase in border encounters at the southern border since February 2020. Officials have additionally noted a growing number of unaccompanied children coming into the country.
“The men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol, and Health and Human Services are doing all they can in the midst of this historic, and preventable, humanitarian crisis,” Capito said Friday evening.
“Seeing firsthand the challenges we face and the work we need to do was greatly beneficial as we work to craft solutions and make funding decisions. Balancing the humanitarian needs with an unwavering commitment to preventing drugs from being smuggled into places like West Virginia is challenging. Today’s visit was a clear reminder that this situation requires urgent action, including increased transparency, policies that deter mass illegal immigration, and a recommitment to securing our nation’s borders.”
Republican lawmakers have blamed the Biden administration for the rise in migrants and stress on border facilities; the president has rescinded policies of the Trump administration, such as allowing migrants into the United States rather than forcing them to wait in Mexico as asylum cases moved forward and freezing funds for constructing a southern border wall.
Capito, the ranking member of the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee, and 39 Republican senators sent a letter this week to the Government Accountability Office asking for a review of Biden’s border wall order. The lawmakers are requesting a decision regarding if the action violated the Impoundment Control Act, which clarifies Congress’ power to control government spending.
“As these unlawful pauses have proceeded, the rate of illegal crossings has surged, creating a crisis across our southern border, at times with tragic consequences,” the senators wrote. “Meanwhile, billions in lawfully appropriated dollars, which were provided by Congress to address precisely this issue, sit unused by the Biden administration.”
Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Capito. Murphy described the processing center on Twitter, noting hundreds of children placed in open rooms. He later said he trusts the Biden administration, arguing Trump-era policies created problems for the current administration.
“Seeing the wall in person is unexpectedly devastating,” he also tweeted. “How did it come to this, that a country defined by our warm embrace of immigrants now must be defined by our irrational fear of them? We must be better.”
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas joined the senators. Mayorkas has stated the rate of encounters is the highest it has been in 20 years while noting surges in 2014 and 2019.
“Poverty, high levels of violence, and corruption in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries have propelled migration to our southwest border for years,” he said this week. “The adverse conditions have continued to deteriorate. Two damaging hurricanes that hit Honduras and swept through the region made the living conditions there even worse, causing more children and families to flee.”
Mayorkas additionally said the department is focused on managing the increase while also keeping migrant families together and protecting children.