Two separate lawmaker trips to border highlight different messages on immigration amid surge of minors

Democratic Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, who led a group of House Democratic lawmakers to Carrizo Springs, Texas, blamed former President Donald Trump for the inhumane conditions in which some unaccompanied minors are being detained.

“We need to be clear about something. President Biden inherited a situation where the previous administration had sought to dismantle the infrastructure for processing asylum seekers and settling asylum seekers in the United States,” he said after touring a migrant processing facility managed by the Department of Health and Human Services. “It was an administration that was run in many ways on these issues by Stephen Miller,” referencing a senior White House policy adviser for Trump known for his hardline views on immigration.

Castro added, “And during the pandemic, the Trump administration took advantage of that fact and sought to expel every single person who was coming to the United States to seek asylum.”

Meanwhile, GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas, who led a delegation of 17 Republican senators to tour a US Customs and Border Protection facility in Donna, Texas, that is reportedly overwhelmed with the number of unaccompanied minors, blamed the Biden administration for the inhumane conditions the minors are being held in.

The two groups highlight the division between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the immigration and how to handle the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the US-Mexico border. President Joe Biden committed to making immigration reform legislation a priority of his administration — but Congress has been unable to garner enough bipartisan support to pass any legislation to change the country’s immigration system.

Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed Democrats for blaming the Trump administration, saying he believes the Biden administration is solely to blame for the conditions at migrant processing facilities.

“And when they say this is Trump problem, they’re lying. This is a problem of their own making. What else have I learned? That Joe Biden, the President, made the problem worse yesterday. It was a nightmare press conference. He told everybody don’t worry, we got crowded facilities, we’re going to build 5000 more beds in Texas at a military base. So how does that play in Central America? They’re going to expand the number of people they can take,” he said.

Cruz said Biden ending the Migrant Protection Protocol enforced by the Trump administration is the reason why there is a crisis at the border.

“The Biden administration is taking people who are testing positive for Covid-19 and locking them in cages, side by side. This is inhumane. It is wrong. And it is the direct consequence of policy decisions by the Biden administration to stop building the wall to return to catch and release, and to end the stay in Mexico policy,” Cruz said.

The Trump administration policy enforced migrants from Central America and other parts of the world who were seeking asylum at the US-Mexico border to stay in Mexico until their immigration court hearings in the United States. That meant waiting months, if not years, in squalid conditions and under the threat of extortion, sexual assault and kidnapping.

Castro led a group of six Democratic House members to a Health and Human Services facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas on Friday afternoon. He was joined by Reps. Pete Aguilar of California, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Barbara Lee of California, Jimmy Panetta of California, Jennifer Wexton of Virginia and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

When asked by a reporter about the goal of their visit, Castro said the Democratic lawmakers want to “make things better” and mentioned the separate group of Republican senators who toured facilities in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Look, we come to these facilities to figure out what’s going on and figure out how we can make things better. And that requires not just our efforts but other members of Congress and the administration, and local officials and nonprofits, and so it’s a big process to do that. And it takes a lot of work, not just from the members of Congress, but also from our staff who are here as well. And so we’re here in earnest, I can’t speak to — I know senators Cornyn and Cruz, I think, are in the Rio Grande Valley today. I don’t know whether they’ve done their event or not. I don’t know what their purpose is.”

Biden assigning Harris to lead diplomatic efforts in Central America to address immigration
The Biden administration has yet to let news cameras inside Customs and Border Protection facilities where children have been detained, on average, for longer than the 72 hours allowed under law, though CBP released government footage of one of those facilities earlier this week.

Biden said during his news conference on Thursday that plans are underway to provide journalists access to border facilities, but didn’t give a timeline for when that would happen.

“I will commit to transparency and as soon as I’m in a position to be able to implement what we’re doing right now,” Biden said Thursday, when pressed on whether journalists would be provided access to facilities where children have staying in crowded conditions. “This is being set up and you’ll have full access to everything once we get this thing moving.”

CNN, among other media outlets, has repeatedly asked for access to Customs and Border Protection facilities and Health and Human Services facilities.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Friday.

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