DES MOINES, Iowa – U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, on a press call Friday morning, described what she saw during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities in Texas.
CBP announced in March the agency encountered more than 172,000 people trying to enter the U.S. along the southern border, up from 100,441 in February, a 7.1 percent increase.
The freshman congresswoman visited Texas with a congressional delegation on Thursday and was in San Antonio waiting to fly back to Iowa.
Hinson said Iowans are concerned about the “compounding security and humanitarian crisis” at the border.
“I’ve heard from many Iowans over the past few weeks who have been seeing the record-breaking numbers regarding the migrant surge. And they’re telling me they’re concerned about the compounding security and the humanitarian crisis,” she said.
Hinson said she was concerned about the lack of media access to CBP facilities, which prompted her trip.
“The Biden Administration has also been restricting media access at border facilities, which is unprecedented and unacceptable. So in my mind, that made it even more important for me to get down there and peel back the curtain on what is happening. We saw that yesterday, the media that was embedded with our group was not allowed in the facility,” she said.
Hinson said the delegation started their day at the Eagle Pass CBP detention facility that just opened one week ago as an overflow facility.
“It is primarily being used to hold unaccompanied minors and the children who are making the dangerous trek across the southern border all by themselves. And it was devastating to me to see these kids, many of whom are younger than my own sons. They’re all by themselves, alone. The Border Patrol agents are bringing in movies and toys from their own homes to help entertain the kids at that facility,” she said.
Hinson said CBP informed the group that 35 percent of their Border Patrol agents cannot staff their regular stations because of the number of detained people. CBP shared they are also down 200 agents and haven’t been able to get people through the academy primarily because of COVID-19.
“That leaves major vulnerabilities along our border where we need boots on the ground,” she explained. “We also had a round table with law enforcement officers, local sheriffs, police chiefs, border patrol agents, mayors who were working along with the Del Rio sector and Eagle Pass, and they were very clear to me their resources are strapped they are completely overwhelmed right now. And they are not currently equipped to handle the emboldened cartels and the emboldened traffickers who are exploiting security gaps at the border.”
Hinson said she spoke with a 20-year veteran border patrol agent who told her that the current conditions at the border are the worst conditions he has ever seen.
“So they’re not only seeing significant increases in illegal crossings but in violent encounters, human trafficking, and drug smuggling,” she said.
Hinson noted that the Biden Administration reinstituted catch and release, which she believes further encourages migrants to attempt to come into the United States illegally.
“This specific policy is materially harmful because it signals to people that even if they are caught illegally crossing the border, they will simply be released into our country,” she said.
“My biggest takeaways from the trips are we need to reinstate common-sense policies and actually enforce them. We need to stop this catch and release policy. And we need to restart our border wall construction,” Hinson stated. “We need more boots on the ground to effectively handle the surge. So focusing on securing our southern border and then working together on real reforms to our immigration system is my priority after this visit. Both parties have failed on immigration, and it’s time for Congress to get to work on fixing it.”
The Iowa Torch asked Hinson where she thought both parties could find common ground on immigration reform.
“I asked my staff for a list of all of the visa programs that we have in this country; there is a lot of room to reform our visa programs. I think that’s something we could absolutely have some common ground on. I think it is an opportunity for us, especially in a state like Iowa, where we have workforce challenges. I think there’s a great opportunity there to address that issue in a bipartisan way. As I discovered yesterday, this need to secure our border is it’s a non-partisan issue. And we’re seeing, you know, Democrats come to the table in Texas, and members of the Texas delegation are speaking out again. So I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to come up with some consensus there. So we can stop kicking the can on this issue. So I think those are some places where we’ll be able to actually find some common ground and get some reforms done,” she said.
Listen to the full press call below: