MCALLEN, Texas — Congressman Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) summed up the situation at the U.S.-Mexico Border in just one phrase: “It’s bad.”
Meijer spoke with FOX 17, after a trip to the border city of McAllen, Texas, alongside fellow members of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“Frankly, it’s not being appreciated the magnitude of the crisis we are facing right now,” Meijer added.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data, agents have encountered more than 170,000 people at the border in March alone. Right now, the U.S. has more than 20,000 unaccompanied minors in custody.
Meijer says he saw dozens of children as young as two years old who have spent weeks in holding. Many were brought over by cartel traffickers as a way to increase the odds of adults being let in. It's a dangerous journey from their birth country to the border.
"I saw kids who have been put in incredibly dangerous situations, kids who have been sexually assaulted on that trip," Meijer said.
“The families are just self-separating in Mexico and sending on those children unaccompanied to gain that foothold, and then be able to be that leverage. We may not be doing the separating, but the separation is occurring, and what we are doing is encouraging individuals to embark on a dangerous route putting their lives in danger,” Meijer added.
Meijer says it’s a crisis made worse by the Biden administration’s messaging and for rescinding Trump-era policies, while putting nothing else in its place.
“Joe Biden can say that the border is closed, but as we still continue to message the fact that folks will be essentially met with open arms and on an expedited pathway, that's sending a signal that individuals in the Northern Triangle countries in Central America are paying close attention to,” Meijer said.
“I do not blame somebody who wants to seek a better life for their family; that is a natural human impulse, but we are creating a scenario where individuals who are seeking to provide for their families are being put in danger. And we have to take responsibility for that,” he added.
Capacity at border facilities is exceeding 100 percent. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has begun relocating thousands of migrant children, and this week more than 200 arrived at a shelter more than 1500+ miles away in Albion, Michigan.
“What was pounded in over and over during my visit to the border was there is no strategy. This is trying to rapidly deal with the crisis of our own making and not thinking about what our long-term plan is,” Meijer added.
Meanwhile, top Republican lawmakers are calling on President Biden to visit the southern border, as the surge of migrants doesn’t appear to be slowing down. On Wednesday, the White House said there’s no plan for the president to visit right now.”
“His focus is on solutions, is on opening up additional facilities, which we have done a great deal of in the last couple of weeks, on moving kids out of the border patrol facilities as quickly as possible into these shelters, which we've seen some progress on in the numbers that have been released by the Department of Homeland Security,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.