Very Concerned Republicans Make Run To Border To Find Facts, Photo Ops
Two delegations of members of Congress are in Texas today to check out the situation on the border. A group of Democrats, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), will visit the Department of Health and Human Services shelter for unaccompanied minors in Carrizo, where some 700 teenage boys are waiting to be placed with sponsors, usually parents or family members already in the US. And a delegation led by Texas Republican Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn will traipse around the border area to mutter about how everything is Joe Biden's fault, despite the fact that nahhh.
Last night, several of the Republican senators were escorted by Border Patrol agents to a spot along the Big River River, where the Border Patrol agents told them voices and flashlights on the Mexican side of the river belonged to "human traffickers and cartel members," according to Cruz, who apparently can tell a cartel-held flashlight from a flashlight held by someone else taunting him in Spanish across a river in the darkness. Look, Cruz even posted video of the terrifying encounter!
We encountered human traffickers & cartel members tonight, yelling at us across the Rio Grande and preparing to cro… https://t.co/qXKNpN5YT2— Ted Cruz (@Ted Cruz)1616739704.0
Oddly, Cruz didn't follow up his video of the criminal gangs "preparing to cross" with any evidence they actually did.
Fox News credulously reported that the senators had encountered real live human traffickers, without the slightest suggestion that the people in the darkness might be anything else, because it's Democrats who lie about the border, nobody else. Cruz sure did all he could to play up just how scary it all was:
We have been listening to and seeing cartel members, human traffickers right on the other side of the river, waving flashlights, yelling and taunting Americans, taunting the Border Patrol because they know under the current policies of the Biden administration they can flood over here. [...]
They're getting paid $4-5000 a person to smuggle them into the country and ... when they smuggle them in, the Biden administration releases them.
You'll search the Fox News article without success for the verbs "claimed" or "alleged."
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) actually one-upped Cruz, telling Fox News that not only had he seen human smugglers and cartel members, they were drug smugglers, too, who are "making $14 million every week while this crisis lasts." "Fox & Friends" host Steve Doocy didn't ask Lee whether he had actually verified the income with receipts of any sort, but they both agreed it's all Joe Biden's fault.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was also very impressed with the midnight tour of the border and everything the Border Patrol showed the GOP junket. Some of it may even have been true! At 1 a.m., Collins tweeted that she had
spent the last 3 hours with Border Patrol on night shift in McAllen, TX. 18 Senators learning about the huge influx, 3,000 people per day, including unaccompanied children, illegally entering.
Mexican cartels control who crosses the border. A young mother from Guatemala, sitting on an aluminum blanket with her 1-year-old, told me she paid smugglers $6,000.
Collins was also happy to relay what the Border Patrol told her she saw with her own eyes, dimly, across the river, in the darkness:
Border Patrol is overwhelmed, overworked, & discouraged by new policies. Agents took us through a dangerous path to the Rio Grande where we could hear the Cartel members taunting us across the river. Human trafficking, child abuse, & drug smuggling are rampant. This is a crisis.
We can only assume Collins was horrified when CBP agents took her into a darkened room and asked her to put her hand in a bowl of peeled grapes so she could touch for herself the preserved eyeballs of cartel victims.
Happily, there's been some pushback to the GOP talking points, such as this fact sheet from the American Immigration Council, which points out that, as happens most years, encounters with migrants at the border have been increasing in the winter and early spring months, going back before Biden's inauguration. The AIC fact sheet also notes that punitive measures by US officials only delay migration, rather than deterring it.
There have been spikes in arrivals at the border in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, and now 2021. Even family separation in 2018 did not have a significant effect on border encounters, and the numbers of families arriving at the border in 2019 had already begun to reduce before the MPP program went into full effect across the border. A new spike was inevitable.
Still, no amount of fact-checking seems to stop the GOP senators' insistence that Donald Trump ended undocumented immigration and Joe Biden threw the borders wide open, if by "wide open" you mean only the small fraction of migrants who are unaccompanied minors are being admitted to the US for processing of asylum claims, while single adults and many families are turned back (which may not be legal, by the way).
AIC's policy counsel, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, pointed out that contrary to Sen. Mike Braun's (R-Indiana) claims, with Trump's "Remain in Mexico" policy, formally known by the Orwellian term "Migrant Protection Protocols" (MPP), migrants were certainly not protected:
Before @SenatorBraun repeats his praise of MPP, I want him to actually go talk to someone put into the program and… https://t.co/W5OmcljN1Q— Aaron Reichlin-Melnick (@Aaron Reichlin-Melnick)1616771641.0
Still, the GOP's trip to the border was a huge success, and we're sure that several members of the delegation, especially those with elections coming up in 2022 or even presidential ambitions, are looking forward to the chance to be photographed riding around on the Texas Department of Public Safety's river patrol boat, so they can pose with .30 caliber machine guns and imagine what they'd do if they spotted a cartel member, human trafficker, drug smuggler, or maybe a terrified 15-year-old fleeing a gang in El Salvador.
MISSION, TX: Ahead of the GOP’s border tour led by Senators @JohnCornyn & @SenTedCruz, TX DPS Tactical Marine Unit… https://t.co/LgyfCdWILW— Morgan Chesky (@Morgan Chesky)1616766809.0
Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and all the others can take turns swiveling the machine guns around and pretending they're Sean Hannity!
You ask us, though, we didn't love any of them in Wall Street.
The only question is whether Ted Cruz will bring enough bacon for everyone to cook on the machine gun barrels. He loves the smell of media attention in the morning.
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