Dems call for 'strategic investments' while touring southern border

A group of Democratic lawmakers toured the U.S.-Mexico border on Saturday and called for more resources to process people who enter the country amid negotiations over border security funding.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThis week: Senate barrels toward showdown on impeachment witnesses The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm MORE (D-Md.) wrote on Twitter that the lawmakers were meeting with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials during the trip, which included a visit to a shelter for immigrants and a meeting with immigrant activists.

“We’re touring sites along the border with @CBP officials, including the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry. What we have seen confirms we need smart, strategic investments to strengthen border security and provide humanitarian assistance," he tweeted.

“The crisis that is claimed of America being under siege or attack I don’t agree with,” Hoyer added in a video posted to his Facebook page. “We do have a humanitarian challenge and crisis in some respects.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’re here to see what the facts are,” he said, noting that the representatives spoke with people who work in security and those who advocate on the legal and humanitarian sides of the issue.

Hoyer visited the border with newly elected Democratic Reps. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandImpeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Haaland, Davids included in 'Jeopardy' clue for historic first as Native American congresswomen Pelosi announces Porter, Haaland will sit on Oversight panel MORE (N.M.), Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarThe Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense Veronica Escobar to give Spanish-language response to Trump State of the Union address Michigan governor to give Democratic response to Trump State of the Union address MORE (Texas), Xochitl Torres Small (N.M) and Mary Gay ScanlonMary Gay ScanlonOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' Lewandowski refuses to say whether Trump has offered him a pardon Four House Judiciary members say they will 'move forward' with impeachment MORE (Pa.).

Democrats made the trip as lawmakers race against the clock to finish negotiations over border security funding ahead of a Feb. 15 deadline to avert another partial government shutdown.

Lawmakers are also seeking to bolster their argument that President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE would not be justified in declaring a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, something he has floated doing if lawmakers don't come up with money to fund a border wall.

"Despite the President's demagoguery over immigration, there is not a national emergency or a security crisis at the border that demands a wall," Hoyer said in a statement Thursday in advance of the trip to the border.

Lawmakers were haggling this week over figures well below Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the Mexican border. Trump acknowledged those negotiations in a tweet Saturday afternoon while asserting that "Democrats just don't seem to want Border Security."

"If you believe news reports, they are not offering much for the Wall. They look to be making this a campaign issue. The Wall will get built one way or the other!" he wrote.

Democrats maintained that they were in favor of some investments at the border.

"Democrats have been putting forth ideas proposing funding for technology, for increased number of immigration judges, for more agents on the border to process the number of people who are coming through,” Haaland said in a video Saturday. “That was absolutely confirmed today by the people who work there."

Scanlon tweeted about a woman they met who had been separated from her children at the border as a result of the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy requiring all adults who illegally cross the border to be prosecuted.

"We just met with a woman who was separated from her children at our border. She told her two young girls that she was going away to work and was not reunited with them until 4 months later," Scanlon tweeted.

"When she would talk to the girls on the phone, which did not happen often, her young girls would tell her 'to work faster' so that they could see her again. This is a humanitarian crisis that we have an obligation to work together to fix."

Representatives said they discussed immigration with advocates in El Paso, Texas, including some affiliated with Annunciation House, which gives immigrants food and shelter. 

Trump is slated to hold a rally in El Paso on Monday as he makes his case for billions of dollars in funding for a border wall. The president's demand for more than $5 billion in funding for a wall was the primary sticking point in negotiations during the 35-day shutdown that ended late last month.