by Senator Marsha Blackburn
In the 4 months since the Democrats took control in Washington, never once have they indicated they understand the severity of the crisis on our southern border—a feat that requires a thick set of blinders.
In April, Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 178,000 people trying to illegally cross our border. Almost 14,000 of them were unaccompanied children or single minors. Drug seizures were up 6% from March, and we’ve already seized more fentanyl this year than we did all last year. On top of all that, law enforcement officials are still catching smugglers trying to pass off counterfeit face masks, prohibited COVID test kits, and banned pharmaceuticals.
It’s important to understand that all of this, from the human trafficking to the drug smuggling to the bootleg PPE operations, are symptoms of a much bigger problem. We’re dealing with a systemic humanitarian, health and safety, and national security crisis that gets worse every time the Biden administration doubles down on open borders rhetoric.
What’s worse, they’re treating the chaos like a logistics issue. Instead of trying to reduce the flow of migrants coming to the southern border, the Biden administration is trying to speed up the flow and move as many migrants into our country as possible.
Last week, we received reports that the Department of Health and Human Services is using Chattanooga, Tennessee as a rally point for unaccompanied minors on their way to either meet up with their sponsors, or move on to area shelters and homes. We saw video evidence of the children getting off of planes at Wilson Air Center and boarding buses to continue on their journey. At least 4 planes full of unaccompanied minors landed in Chattanooga last week.
It’s important to realize that all this was happening in the dead of night, without the knowledge of any Tennessee elected officials or community leaders. There was no transparency, no coordination, and no notice whatsoever. This should worry you not only because HHS circumvented state authorities, but because the agency itself has a history of operating under a veil of secrecy when it concerns their handling of migrant children. Back in 2014, HHS blocked congressional oversight of their migrant housing facilities. Attempts to tour one such facility, which at the time housed more than 1000 children, were met with delays, denials, and refusals.
Fast forward to today, and HHS is being just as secretive about how they’re managing care for these children. Fortunately, eyewitnesses have come forward to confirm the scope and secrecy of this operation.
One source said, “they have intentionally not shared a lot of information with us. They don’t want this to get out.”
He went on to explain how HHS has had to change their strategy to avoid scrutiny: “They had, to my understanding, a field full of buses with more buses and more buses running all of these routes. Now, they’re flying the kids because the buses were easier to videotape going down the highway. They’ve changed their strategy from buses to flying… In Chattanooga and other cities, motorcoach companies are waiting on planes to land and continuing their trek further north, dropping kids off along the way.”
Let’s be clear about one thing: the children in those buses are victims of irresponsible rhetoric, of bad policy, and of manipulation and abuse by traffickers, and none of them should have been on those buses in the first place. Moving children through Border Patrol custody, into HHS custody, and then delivering them to sponsors throughout the country is not a solution to the problem. It only makes the problem worse. If Democrats want to embrace a “humane” approach to immigration reform, they should stop worrying about sticking to talking points and instead secure the border.
They have many options at their disposal. Their first move should be to restore the Migrant Protection Protocols. I’ve introduced a bill that would make that happen—all we need is a few votes and a signature. They could also fully embrace our Title 42 authority to turn away adults and children who attempt to enter the country illegally. This would close the loophole that has tempted so many parents to send their children to the border alone. They must also resume construction of the border wall, and invest in the infrastructure, technology, and manpower it will take to truly secure those points of entry.
But above all else, they must stop making promises they can’t keep. They believe that opening the border is compassionate policy. But what they’ve so far failed to accept is that the cartels are exploiting their version of compassion and using it to manipulate desperate families in Mexico and the Northern Triangle. For some inexplicable reason, the Biden administration has made it official policy to finish the cartels’ work for them. They’re spending taxpayer dollars to shuttle migrant children to their new lives, knowing full well each child that leaves their custody could be thrown into an MS-13 gang, a labor crew, a sex trafficking ring, or a drug running operation.
The officials who continue to insist that all these children are headed to their families are living in a fantasyland of their own design.
Last week, Senator Hagerty, Congressman Fleischman, and I sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, asking for a full briefing on the situation in Chattanooga. We’re still waiting for a satisfactory response.
Democrats won’t be able to fix this crisis with a talking point, or by staying silent, as Secretaries Becerra and Mayorkas have chosen to be. Parents are sending their children 1000 miles across the continent in the custody of drug mules and sex traffickers because the Biden administration has given them hope that if they take this one, unthinkable risk, the door will be open, and they’ll be able to follow their children into the country.
We have the power to stop this. It’s time for Washington Democrats to abandon the talking points, address the root cause of the crisis, and secure our southern border before it’s too late. Because if we’ve learned anything about how the cartels operate, the children who passed through Chattanooga last week–the ones who made it here–are the lucky ones.
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Republican Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the United States Senate. After serving eight terms in the US House of Represenatives, she was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018.