Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) addressed the letter to Biden, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, and Norris Cochran, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), saying it is “imperative” they meet with him and discuss solutions to the rapidly deteriorating situation at the border.
“According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, there were 1,800 apprehensions in my district in a single day last week. There were also 10 admissions to our hospitals per day last week as a result of the influx and no indications that these numbers will decrease,” Gonzalez warned.
The congressman said that the Rio Grande Valley has been “ravaged” by the pandemic. He noted that the region accounts for 10 percent of Texas’ coronavirus-related deaths despite being home to only 4.7 percent of the state’s population — and said uncontrolled immigration is not helping.
“The number of unaccompanied minors that are arriving is staggering. Children under the age of five years old are being left on the river banks with nothing more than a phone number written on their clothing,” Gonzalez wrote.
“It appears that the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement has not adequately responded to the call to action, leaving children in Border Patrol custody for longer than 72 hours. The message in Central America seems to be that now is the time to come, and cartels are profiting in the process.”
CBS News reported that DHS took over 7,000 unaccompanied children into custody in February — more than in any other February on record — and began violating its own coronavirus precautions to accommodate them.
Last month, the federal government reopened a temporary encampment in Carrizo Springs to house unaccompanied teenagers. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says most unaccompanied minors are currently from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
In a recent press conference, Mayorkas resisted the idea that the developments along the border constitute a crisis, instead choosing to characterize it as a “challenge.”
Gonzalez is not the first border Democrat to sound the alarm about a wave of immigration placing a strain on local communities near the border.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) said in a social media post on Thursday that “inaction is not an option” in view of the immigration crisis.
“Our country is currently unprepared to handle a surge in migrants in the middle of this pandemic,” Cuellar wrote. “I urge the Biden administration to listen and work with the communities on the southern border who are dealing with this influx.”
A number of Republican members of Congress called on the president last week to reinstate the national emergency related to immigration previously instituted by former President Trump.
On Saturday, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety to assist with border security.
The full letter can be found below.