GOP visits border, criticizes Biden policies

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at the southern border
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Top House Republicans on Monday called on President Biden to visit the U.S.-Mexico border amid what both parties are calling a “humanitarian crisis” caused by the surge of migrants and unaccompanied children attempting to enter the country.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — who led a delegation of 12 GOP members on a tour of the border in El Paso, Texas — blamed the influx in border crossings and apprehensions on the Biden administration’s immigration policies and decision to stop the construction of former President Trump’s border wall. 

And as Biden and other administration officials fan out across the country to sell their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, McCarthy challenged the president to make sure he includes a stop along the southern border.

“I know the president is going to travel this week. This is where you should bring Air Force One. This is where he should look the people in the eye. This is where he should talk to the border agents, and let them know that this is beyond the crisis,” McCarthy told reporters at a press conference following the tour. 

“He can continue to deny it, but the only way to solve it is to first admit what he has done, and if he will not reverse action it’s going to take correct congressional action to do it. And that’s why we’re here. We want to find solutions. Before we even came here, I sent a letter to the president to work together to solve this problem,” McCarthy said.

Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) — the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and a former prosecutor in the region — argued Biden’s policies have opened the door for potential terrorists to exploit abuses. He said Border Patrol agents had told the Republicans that they have seen individuals from Yemen, Iran, Sri Lanka and Haiti attempt to enter the country. 

“Individuals that they have on the watch list for terrorism are now starting to exploit the southern border,” he said. “We need to wake up, need to understand — listen President Biden, you’re an OK guy. Why don’t you just admit you made a mistake with this policy and go back to the way it was and keep America safe for all of us and use that money that we’re wasting down here on American citizens.”

Republicans have pointed to Biden’s deployment of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in finding shelter for the growing number of unaccompanied minors as evidence that the administration’s decision to roll back Trump’s executive orders on immigration was a mistake.

First-term Rep. Maria E. Salazar (R-Fla.) called on Hispanic Americans to push their representatives to do more to combat the growing problem at the border, arguing “it’s our girls from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the ones who are being raped. It’s our girls, the children who are being trafficked.”

“We need to stop this. We need to stop being pawns of the politicians in Washington and pawns of the traffickers who are trafficking with our children, our families and our women,” she said at the press conference.  

“It’s a problem that belongs to all Americans, including the Hispanic Americans in this country,” she added. 

The White House on Monday said the GOP lawmakers visiting the border would see evidence of the previous administration’s failures.

“On their visit Republican Members will see first-hand what so many Americans know — the cruelty, chaos and confusion pushed by the prior administration completely decimated our immigration system,” a White House spokesman said in a statement. 

It then said it hoped Republicans would be willing to work on a comprehensive immigration reform measure.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed the White House arguments in weekend remarks.

“I do know that the Biden administration is trying to fix the broken system that was left to them by the Trump administration,” Pelosi said in the Capitol.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and other Biden officials visited facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border on March 7 to monitor and report back about the spike in unaccompanied minors crossing the border. 

Republicans including Katko, a Trump critic, blasted the notion that the surge falls on the prevision administration. 

“One of the perhaps most reprehensible things I’ve heard in a long time is Nancy Pelosi and some of the administration saying that this is caused by pent up demand from the previous administration,” he said.  

“There’s always a pent up demand for crime, crossing the border illegally is illegal. And so we shouldn’t accommodate that pent up demand and they seem to be signaling that we should.” 

Tags Alejandro Mayorkas Border crisis coronavirus relief COVID-19 Donald Trump El Paso Immigration Joe Biden John Katko Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Susan Rice Texas

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