House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday slammed the Joe ‘Biden border crisis’ during his visit to El Paso and challenged the president to come to the border to see the situation for himself.
Meanwhile, the White House still refuses to call the thousands of migrant children being held – some without beds or enough food – a ‘crisis,’ but press secretary Jen Psaki did say it is a ‘big problem.’
She also blamed Donald Trump’s administration for leaving the border a mess.
‘We recognize this is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system, and like any other problem, we’re going to do everything we can to solve it,’ she said.
McCarthy, meanwhile, blamed Biden’s executive orders lifting some of Trump’s stricter immigration policies for the surge in immigration.
Pressure is increasing on the administration to fix the border in what is rapidly becoming a crisis for the Biden White House.
‘It’s more than a crisis. This is a human heartbreak,’ McCarthy told reporters after he and a group of GOP lawmakers who visited a detention center. ‘The sad part about that is this didn’t have to happen. This crisis is created by the presidential policies of this new administration.’
‘I know the president’s going to travel this week. This is where he should bring Air Force,’ McCarthy said. ‘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 a crisis.’
Democratic National Committee spokesperson Eduardo Silva said Republicans need to present their own solution and he called the trip a ‘political stunt.’
‘Republicans for years – including the last four years – did nothing to help with the nation’s immigration issues. Unless Republicans come back from the border with a commitment to helping President Biden solve the problem, this visit is nothing more than a political stunt,’ he said.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy challenged President Joe Biden to come to border and see situation for himself
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would not commit to President Joe Biden visiting the border in what is rapidly becoming a crisis for the Biden White House
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy led a group of Republican lawmakers to see a border facility in El Paso, Texas
Psaki was asked multiple times if the president would consider a trip to the border. Biden is scheduled to go to Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Georgia on Friday to out his COVID bailout package.
‘I don’t have any trips to preview at this point in time,’ she said during her White House press briefing.
She said Biden’s focus ‘is on developing solutions, pushing his team, encouraging his team to develop solutions that will expedite processing at the border, that will open more facilities that will ensure kids are treated with humanity and also treated safely. And that’s his focus, and so that’s where he’s putting his efforts on immigration.’
The administration is struggling to house a surge of migrant children as they work to process the minors so the children can be transferred to Department of Health and Human Services shelters where they would stay until they could be united with family members already in the U.S. or with a sponsor.
The children are supposed to be transferred to DHS within three days of being caught by border agents.
Border agents are apprehending more than 400 children a day, however, which is many more than the number of children that HHS is processing and releasing to sponsors.
And more than 4,200 kids are being held in jail-like stations unfit to house them, according to government records reviewed by CBS News, with 3,000 held past the legal limit.
Additionally the administration is looking at using The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas to house migrants as they run out of space, the Associated Press reported. The center is estimated to be able to hold 3,000 children.
Migrant children and teenagers from the southern border of the United States being held a temporary facility in Midland, Texas
Intensive care tents sit in a row at a Influx Care Facility (ICF) for unaccompanied children in Carrizo Springs, Texas, where another temporary shelter has been built
A tent facility operated by the Custom and Border Patrol in Donna, Texas – some 165 miles south of Dallas – is holding more than 1,000 children and teenagers, some as young as 4. Many of the shelters are beyond capacity for taking more kids.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said the facilities are ‘no place for a child.’
Media is not being allowed inside the shelters but lawyers are. Some of the attorneys told CBS News that the children told them they are hungry; only showering once in as many as seven days; and are not able to call family members.
Psaki said the situation was ‘heartbreaking’ for the kids but there were not a lot of options.
‘This is heartbreaking. It’s a very emotional issue for a lot of people, and it’s very difficult and challenging. And obviously, these CBP facilities are not made for kids,’ she said.
‘It’s not acceptable, but I think the challenge here is that there are only there are not that many options,’ she said. ‘The options here are send the kids back on the journey, send them to unvetted homes or work to expedite moving them into shelters where they can get health treatment by medical doctors, by educational resources, legal counseling, mental health counseling. That’s exactly what we’re focused on doing.’
But the administration has argued it needs its nominee to led DHS – Xavier Becerra – confirmed to help manage the situation. Biden, however, has yet to name nominees to lead CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, leaving those agencies without top leadership.
Meanwhile, a new center was opened in Midland, Texas, on Sunday to help alleviate the overcrowding caused by the record number of migrants. A shelter also was recently opened in Carrizo Springs, Texas.
The Biden administration also directed the shelters to return to normal capacity, despite the coronavirus pandemic. Previously, social distancing and other health protocols were in place to combat the disease.
Biden lifted the Trump policy that required migrants to remain in Mexico while going through the legal process to enter the U.S., narrowed the ICE’s criteria for arrests and deportations and stopped the building of Trump’s border wall.
Migrant children and teenagers at the facility in Midland, Texas
Coach-style buses carrying migrant children and teenagers from the southern border line up at the entrance of a temporary holding facility in Midland, Texas
More than 4,200 kids are being held, according to government records reviewed by CBS News, with 3,000 held past the legal limit of three days
In what was seen as a nod to the growing gravity of the situation, Biden administration officials announced over the weekend that FEMA will help process the influx of children coming into the country.
‘Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children,’ Mayorkas said in a statement.
And ICE has asked for volunteers to help at the border.
Meanwhile, the House will vote this week on two bills aimed at tackling the immigration crisis: The American Dream and Promise Act would establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children – known as the ‘Dreamers’ – while the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would allow agricultural workers to establish temporary status with an eventual option to become a permanent resident.
Last month, 100,000 migrants were caught trying to cross the southern border – up 30 percent from January.
And numbers are continuing to increase this month, with 125,000 migrants expected to arrive along the border in March, according to current data.
That is the highest number in years – and officials fear the figure will soar even further throughout the spring.