Texas Republicans Sen. Ted Cruz and Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott on Monday demanded that federal officials immediately intervene to stop the influx of Central American immigrant children that has overwhelmed south Texas.
“We need to act to stop it, number one, by finally securing the borders and, number two, by not offering amnesty, which only incentivizes more people to violate the law,” Cruz said after he and Abbott toured a shelter at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where 1,200 minors have been since early this month.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied youths have been caught along the southwest border this fiscal year, almost double last year’s total. The epicenter of the crisis is the Rio Grande Valley, where more than 37,000 were detained this year, almost triple last year’s total.
Cruz and Abbott said migrant youths have been handed over by parents to cartels and coyotes and travel north atop a train called “the beast.” They described some of the youths as abused and injured, some with ears cut off. A quadriplegic they met had been found abandoned on the U.S. side of the river.
Cruz called the influx “tragic and heartbreaking” and blamed it largely on Obama’s policies and “lawlessness,” including his 2012 executive order of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which he said stoked rumors that young immigrants will be granted permission to stay, known as “permisos.” He accused Obama and Senate Democrats of “holding border security hostage” while they pushed for immigration reform.
This year, 90,000 youths are expected to cross the southern border illegally, Cruz noted. He warned that if nothing is done, by next year, that number could double.
“We have to change the legal system that is encouraging what’s happening,” Cruz said.
Abbott, who is campaigning for governor, wrote to the Homeland Security chief earlier this month demanding $30 million in added resources to help Texas secure the border and address the crisis. On Monday, he said the funding had yet to arrive to deal with what he termed a “man-made crisis” that has left Border Patrol agents “completely overburdened.”
Last week, Texas officials ordered a “surge” of resources for the Texas Department of Public Safety at the border, including $1.3 million in added weekly spending.
“The state of Texas is doing what the federal government has failed to do,” Abbott said. “We are putting the machinery into place to ensure we secure our border.”
More Texas officials were expected to appear in the valley Monday to address the border crisis.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat running against Abbott for governor, toured the McAllen Border Patrol station Monday, met with border officials and was scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. Central time.
Davis sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry Monday calling for a special legislative session to address the and demanding he declare a state of emergency on the border to “assist overwhelmed local communities.”
"Federal border agents and facilities are overwhelmed trying to address this human crisis instead of focusing on their first priority to secure our border from drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists," Davis wrote.
Perry was among those who ordered the border security surge and was also visiting the valley Monday. He was scheduled to speak at 4:30 p.m. Central Time in Weslaco after touring a federal facility housing young migrants and being briefed by state and federal officials.
On Friday, Perry sent a letter to the president calling for him to send a thousand National Guard troops to the border and urging him to visit.
“The safety and security of our border communities is being threatened by this flood of illegal immigration, and the crisis worsens by the day," he wrote.
Homeland Security Chief Jeh Johnson visited McAllen and Lackland last week and vowed to send a surge of federal resources to the border, including added family detention facilities, immigration judges and lawyers. On Monday, he released an open letter to Central American parents urging them not to send their children on the treacherous journey north and attempting to dispel the "permiso" rumors, noting that children who cross now are not eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection.
"Let me be clear: There is no path to deferred action or citizenship, or one being contemplated by Congress, for a child who crosses our border illegally today," he wrote. "The desire to see a child have a better life in the United States is understandable. But the risks of illegal migration by an unaccompanied child to achieve that dream are far too great, and the 'permisos' do not exist."