Several members of the House are headed to the southern U.S. border over the next few days, to get a first-hand glimpse of the unfolding humanitarian crisis involving thousands of unaccompanied children trying to cross into the United States.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are among the members who are expected to visit the Rio Grande Valley area of the U.S.-Mexico border on July 2-3 to assess the immigration surge and how that surge is being handled.
Migrants are released from ICE custody at a Greyhound Bus station in Phoenix May 28, 2014. The Border Patrol says about 400 migrants were flown from Texas to Arizona because of surge in migrants being apprehended in Texas. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Michael Chow)
The trip comes in the wake of mounting criticism that the administration has failed to enforce the border, and at the same time has encouraged illegal immigrants by deferring the deportation of young illegal residents.
"Word has spread around the world about the Obama administration's lax immigration enforcement and administrative legalization programs and it has encouraged thousands of children, teenagers, and families from Central America to come to the United States illegally and take advantage of this situation," Goodlatte said Friday. "Law enforcement officials who testified at the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week state that this surge shows no signs of stopping and that once these minors and families are here, it will be years before they face the possibility of removal – if they are removed at all."
Issa, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee, will be joined by at least four Democrats on the committee — Reps. Joe Garcia (Fla.), Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), and Zoe Lofgren (Calif.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is planning her own visit to the border, and will lead a delegation of Democrats to a Texas immigration detention facility. That delegation will be briefed Saturday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.
Pelosi said the purpose of her trip is to ensure the children coming across the border are being treated humanely.
"The humanitarian crisis unfolding across our nation's southern border demands Congress come together and find thoughtful, compassionate and bipartisan solutions," she said Thursday. "We must ensure our laws are fully enforced, so that due process is provided to unaccompanied children and the safety and well-being of unaccompanied children is protected. We must also work to address the root causes of the problem."
Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), who is traveling with Pelosi, said he's worried about the spread of disease among the detainees that seems to be caused by overcrowding. Hinojosa has called on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate these reports.
Republicans have been pushing the Obama administration for several weeks now to make it clear to families and countries in Central America that children will not receive amnesty if they make it across the southern U.S. border. Democrats have said the flood of immigrants shows Congress needs to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, but Republicans have rejected that, and said more border enforcement is needed urgently.
Thursday night, Democrats blocked a request from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to pass bills requiring companies to verify the legal status of people before hiring them, and ensuring the federal child tax credit is not given to illegal immigrants. But Democrats blocked that attempt.
Friday is the one-year anniversary of the Senate's passage of its broad immigration bill. On the same day, the Center of Immigration Studies released a report finding that all new net jobs created since 2000 are held by immigrants, not people born in the United States.