McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress on Tuesday sent a last-minute letter to the White House urging Title 42 remain in place at the Southwest border past Dec. 21, saying no plan is in place to maintain border security.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia; U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; and U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas, sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend the public health policy that prevents asylum-seekers from crossing the border from Mexico in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“We have a crisis at our southern border. Never before in our nation’s history have we experienced this scope and scale of illegal border crossings, and we remain concerned that your administration has not provided sufficient support or resources to the men and women of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who are tasked with maintaining border security,” they wrote.
“DHS has not outlined a viable plan to maintain operational control of the southern border. This situation is untenable, and we must work together to keep in place DHS’s authority to quickly expel migrants until an acceptable set of alternative policies and resources is put into place,” they wrote.
The lawmakers wrote that “termination of the CDC’s Title 42 order at this time will result in a complete loss of operational control over the southern border, a profoundly negative impact on border communities, and significant suffering and fatalities among the migrants unlawfully entering the United States.”
They pledged that they are “committed to enacting bipartisan legislation that will allow DHS to effectively implement policies and programs that have been revealed as critical to maintaining operational control over the southern border, and do not involve paroling large numbers of migrants into the United States to undergo months- or years-long processes.”
However, they did not elaborate on exactly what those programs would be, or how much they would cost.
Congress currently is facing a Friday night government shutdown if lawmakers do not approve the Fiscal Year 2023 Government Budget. That $1.7 trillion budget bill contains funds to add 250 more Border Patrol agents, and more funds for border processing coordinators, plus $23 million for mental healthcare for agents, new border monitoring technologies, pay raises for agents, and even additional clothing allowances, Cuellar told Border Report.
Cuellar is vice chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Committee. He says they approved spending measures in July and he is frustrated by the Senate, which has failed to take up the measures until facing this year-end deadline.
In a Zoom interview on Monday, Cuellar said he wants Title 42 to remain and he wants additional resources approved so they can be sent to the Southwest border.
“All of us, including Homeland are estimating that the number of people coming across are going to increase. The criminal organizations are certainly promoting this as this is a time to cross if Title 42 goes away,” Cuellar said. “I prefer to keep title 42.”
He said the main sticking point in the government spending debate currently revolves around funding for domestic spending and non-military spending. But he expects Republicans to bring up funding for the border wall in upcoming negotiations.
“There’s always the same thing: money for Border Patrol; money for ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement); money for detention. I’m sure the Republicans are going to bring up the wall. Even though Trump is not around, they still bring up the wall,” Cuellar said.
A congresswoman from West Texas is urging the Biden administration to rush federal resources to help El Paso cope with an ongoing migrant humanitarian crisis.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said the “extraordinary high numbers” of migrants arriving daily in El Paso have created a strain on the community that requires more federal spending and the reassignment of federal employees from other areas.
“While I am extremely grateful to the Biden administration for the millions of dollars they have provided El Paso in financial support [….] as well as their ongoing work with neighboring countries to address root causes, that long-overdue work will not bear fruit immediately,” Escobar said in a statement on Tuesday.
Escobar, who represents El Paso, sent a letter on Tuesday to the House Appropriations chairwoman asking that additional funds be added into the government spending bill for temporary federally-run emergency shelters and resources for El Paso in light of the thousands of migrants currently being released there.
She also called on her peers in Congress to come up with a permanent solution by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
She says about 2,000 migrants per day are released into the West Texas city.
The other lawmakers say they’ve been told to expect as many as 18,000 unauthorized migrant crossings per day once Title 42 goes away.
In their letter on Tuesday, the lawmakers admitted that “negotiations will take time,” regarding border security and “in the interim we urge you to do everything within your power to extend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Title 42 order beyond the looming December 21st deadline until Congress can act.”
The Trump-era policy meant to prevent cross-border spread of COVID-19 was vacated in November by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., who found it “arbitrary and capricious.” The Biden administration first asked for a delay in rolling back the policy and then appealed it.