‘I want to cry’: House Republicans take emotional trip to the border
LA JOYA, Texas — They kept coming throughout the night. Clusters of migrant children, some with their mothers, others who made the 1,500-mile journey from Central America by themselves, surrendering to U.S. Border Patrol agents at a makeshift checkpoint along a dark road in this tiny border town.
They clutched bottles of water and bags of snacks. Their shoes were caked in mud. Exhausted, they sat or slept on wet patches of grass.
They had expected to be questioned by agents, board a big white bus and get sent to a nearby processing center. The coyotes, or smugglers, probably told them that much.
But these migrants couldn’t have anticipated the two dozen House Republicans from Washington who were waiting to observe and speak to them once they had illegally crossed into the American side of the Rio Grande Valley.
For many in the congressional delegation — organized by the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) and its chairman, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — this represented their first visit to the southern border.
For some, it was a frustrating experience given how easy it was for the migrants to cross the Rio Grande and walk right across the border, but also one full of emotion as lawmakers inquired about the children’s names, ages and personal stories.
One unaccompanied 8-year-old Honduran boy, sporting a blue shirt and black pants, was discovered on the side of the road by two teenage migrant girls; they brought him to La Joya in hopes that he can reconnect with his mother and brother who live in the U.S.
“I want to cry,” first-term Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) told The Hill as she surveyed the growing crowd of children around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, taking a moment to blame the situation on President Biden. “How sad it is that we’ve created this humanitarian crisis. These desperate people think they can come in, which obviously our president has advertised this and facilitated this invasion.”
But Miller added: “The world wants to come to our great country, the land of freedom and opportunity. … True, we have warts, we’re not perfect, there’s no utopia … but we’re the most free and the most prosperous, and that’s why these people are here.”
On Wednesday, RSC lawmakers will join former President Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) at a roundtable discussion with border security officials in nearby Weslaco. Then the group will join Trump for a photo op at a section of his prized border wall.
Earlier Tuesday night, GOP lawmakers had trekked through the mud, past prickly pear cactus and shoulder-high grass, to get a glimpse of a different section of Trump’s wall in La Joya, a town of about 4,250 residents west of McAllen.
The mud, sticky from recent rain, clumped together on the members’ shoes, weighing them down; one lawmaker briefly lost her shoe and cried out for help in a rare moment of levity.
Trump’s wall is a hulking mass that extends west for miles. But Biden had ordered its construction to be stopped, and this was one location where the wall abruptly ended, allowing migrants simply to walk around it.
“You can immediately see why the wall works: the height of the wall, the way it’s constructed. You immediately understand that Trump’s border wall is constructed in a way where you can’t get over it. You can’t go through it. You can’t go under it,” Banks told The Hill, the structure just over his shoulder.
“President Biden on Day One signs an executive order that stops construction of the wall, and that creates an entryway which is why this section is a hot spot,” Banks continued. “You have thousands of migrants passing through this area on a regular basis on nights like tonight, because there’s an open door that allows them to do that.”
Other Republicans who visited the border late Tuesday night included Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Mike Johnson (La.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), John Rose (Tenn.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Lisa McClain (Mich.) and Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), as well as Texas Reps. Randy Weber, August Pfluger, Brian Babin and Ronny Jackson.
Cawthorn, who also had never been to the border, examined colored wristbands that Mexican cartels and smugglers recently have been putting on the migrants. Some of the wristbands read “entregas,” which means “deliveries” in Spanish.
“They’re basically treating people like Amazon products, saying that you’re delivered as if you are an asset being dropped off,” Cawthorn told The Hill. “There is no care that that is a human being, someone who has a soul, someone who has unalienable rights that predate any government. It’s sick.”