The Times-Tribune

Congressme­n lament migrant conditions on southern border

- BY RICK DANDES THE (SUNBURY) DAILY ITEM

U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser and Fred Keller spent part of this week in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, talking to Customs and Border Patrol agents about the migrant situation at the border and seeing firsthand the humanitari­an toll it is taking on the region.

It was eye-opening, Meuser, R-9, Dallas, said of his tour at the border.

“No matter what you see in the news it’s nothing like being there,” he said.

Meuser said he was given access to anywhere he wanted to go.

Meuser and Keller, R-12, Middlecree­k Twp., were among two groups of congressme­n who flew to the southern border over the weekend.

“This has truly been a tragic turn of events over the last few months, unfortunat­ely,” Meuser said Tuesday after he had returned from Texas.

“Four months ago,” he said, “the border was more or less secure. The Biden administra­tion felt it necessary to reverse, whether they were good programs or not, what the Trump administra­tion had instituted, and put our border in order.”

Meuser said he was told that 15,000 illegal immigrants were being apprehende­d back in October and November. “By March the count is 170,000 being apprehende­d,” Meuser said.

Keller talked to law enforcemen­t officers in El Paso about the difficulti­es posed by the ongoing migrant surge, where recidivism is at 44%. Border Patrol agents are stretched thin, tasked with serving as social workers and detention guards in addition to patrolling 260 miles of border, he said.

Unaccompan­ied minors are a problem, said Meuser, who noted he saw how children were put in “pods” of 50 where the capacity was normally 15. “That part is a mess,” he said.

Within the pods, the children were treated as well as possible, with daily showers and food available, he said.

“For the most part they just want a better life,” Meuser said of the migrants.

The guards “said our communicat­ion needs to be consistent,” Meuser said. “There can’t be one Democratic message and one Republican message. There has to be an American response on what we are doing. Secondly, work with Mexico to control the movement of these immigrants.”

In recent days the Biden administra­tion has reestablis­hed agreements with the Mexican and Guatemalan government­s to station troops at their northern borders. “I think that will help us on our border,” Meuser said. “If someone was seeking asylum they would have their hearing and then if appropriat­e they could come in.”

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