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Hinson visits southwest border as government reports record number of unaccompanied children crossing into US

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 11:17 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa 1st District Congresswoman Ashley Hinson joined several other Republican members of Congress on a trip to the southwest border of the United States on Thursday.

Hinson toured the U.S.-Mexico border at Eagle Pass, Texas, along with a processing facility at Eagle Pass, and met with Texas law enforcement officers.

Her visit came the same day U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a record number of 18,890 unaccompanied children arrived at the country’s southwest border in March. The agency said that is a 100% increase from the number of children who came to the border the month before, which was 9,457.

As of Tuesday, more than 20,000 unaccompanied children were in government custody, waiting to be released to family members or sponsors.

Hinson said she discussed approaches to immigration reform during her conversations with law enforcement who work near the border Thursday.

“We have to stop catch-and-release. That’s something we’ve been hearing from law enforcement,” she said, referring to the policy overturned by former President Donald Trump and restored by President Joe Biden through an executive order that allows certain immigrants apprehended at the border to still enter the country prior to their immigration hearings, instead of remaining in custody. “We need to have stricter controls on asylum, and they’ve all echoed what we’ve said here — we need to secure the border, we need a wall at the border, and we need border security.”

Nearly 300 current and former sheriffs advocated a similar message in a letter they sent to Biden on Wednesday, including 10 from Iowa, titled, “Help America’s Sheriffs Keep Our Neighborhoods and Communities Safe by Halting Illegal Immigration.”

In the letter, they contend the administration is “encouraging and sanctioning lawlessness and the victimization of the people of the United States of America, all in the name of mass illegal immigration.”

But Joe Henry, the political director of LULAC Iowa, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, said lawmakers should move in the opposite direction and give legal status to all undocumented people in the United States, not including those convicted of serious felonies.

“These undocumented immigrants have been working hard, have been playing a part in all our communities, have been playing a part in rebuilding Iowa in agriculture, meat processing, construction, services, healthcare,” Henry said.

At the center of much debate about the current situation at the border is Title 42, which was enacted by the Trump administration in 2020 to allow border patrol to expel any migrant for health or safety reasons — in this case, the pandemic.

Biden has kept Title 42 in place for the most part but has made an exception for unaccompanied minors, allowing them into the country.

Experts have said that reversal has contributed to the recent surge of children arriving at the border, along with other factors pushing them out of their home countries, including poverty, violence, and natural disasters.

Henry said all of Title 42 should be reversed.

“When it comes to worrying about COVID and other things, it has already been announced by the president that by the end of April, there will be enough serums and so forth to vaccinate all Americans,” he said. “I mean, what are we worried about?”

Hinson said a border agent told her Thursday that a policy like Title 42 should stay in place permanently.

“That’s feedback I’m going to take back to Washington and try to work on policies to help fix,” she said. “It makes us more safe. It makes us more streamlined.”

But right now, thousands of children are currently in US custody — as of Tuesday, more than 4,000 of them with Customs and Border Protection and more than 16,000 children in the Department of Health and Human Services’ custody.

Hinson said this has pulled agents away from securing the border to care for them.

“It’s created a drain on our resources and a humanitarian crisis that is escalating every day and making our country less safe,” she said.

Henry said the federal government should be able to place children in homes through the country, including in Iowa, where he estimates between 300 and 500 children could be relocated, as was done in 2014 under the Obama administration.

He said families are already reaching out to LULAC Iowa, saying they want to take these children in.

“These kids are not drug dealers. They’re not violent criminals,” Henry said. “They are refugees. We need to do the right thing. We need to do our part.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she has rejected a federal request to accept migrant children into the state, saying the need to find homes for them “is the president’s problem.”

Reynolds told WHO radio on Thursday that her priority is the health and safety of Iowans and that the state doesn’t have facilities to house migrant children for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

President Biden said in an interview with ABC News in March that his message to migrants is, “Don’t come over.”

But Congresswoman Hinson said the Biden administration needs to be tougher in its message.

“We need to respect our laws. We need to secure our border, and we need to make sure that we stop this surge, and the best way to do that is to be explicit with our language,” she said. “I’m calling on the Biden administration to do that.”

Henry countered the Biden administration’s message of “don’t come over” only applies to people who can afford to stay where they are.

“When you have people fleeing violence, fleeing poverty, I mean, they’re leaving their homelands, so it is serious. They can’t wait. We need to do the right thing,” Henry said.

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