Throughout American history, we have seen ordinary people answer the call of duty, stepping up to fight for freedom and democracy across the globe, myself included. I served two decades in the United States Navy alongside my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform. We all swore the same oath: to protect and defend our country against all enemies, foreign or domestic. Taking that oath was a conscious decision to protect the United States from our adversaries, no matter the cost to ourselves.
I retired in 2019 as a Master Chief Petty Officer and am proud to call myself a veteran. Now, as a member of Congress, I have the opportunity to advocate for my fellow veterans, making sure they receive the benefits and care from our government that they rightfully deserve. This week we have seen part of that care threatened, as the government plans to send VA medical personnel to respond to the border crisis when Title 42 is lifted. This is a reprehensible idea - not only as a veteran myself, but because I have seen veterans in my district who rely so much on our VA for their health and well-being. I cannot imagine stripping their access to care because this administration has decided to prioritize the needs of migrants over them.
My district includes 40 percent of the U.S.-Mexico border. I am at the border every single week, seeing the devastation it has caused to our communities. If Title 42 is lifted with no contingency plan in place, our border will spiral to complete chaos. We need reinforcements at the southern border, but it cannot come at the expense of our veterans. The men and women who have bravely fought for our country do not deserve to bear the burden of President Biden's self-inflicted crisis.
I have been urging this administration to keep Title 42 in place until there is a sound, tangible replacement. Both myself and other border lawmakers have proposed reasonable solutions put in place as Title 42 is repealed. These are solutions like resuming repatriation flights, enforcing Remain in Mexico and increasing immigration judges. Instead of considering these proposals, they have decided to strip benefits from those who put their lives on the line. And they have come to this decision without consulting anyone whose livelihood is impacted by the border crisis.
As I visit our border towns, I see the normal challenges faced by other rural communities - lack of proper infrastructure, limited access to broadband services, and isolation from the services in big cities. Veterans in these areas face a specific issue - limited access to VA health care or medical centers. For veterans in Eagle Pass - the epicenter of the border crisis - the closest option for care might be in San Antonio, a two-hour commute from home. Some veterans are even forced to cross the border into Piedras Negras for a higher level of care. Many of our veterans already have limited access to proper VA care simply because of their location. This administration's incompetence should not impact the healthcare of our veterans by increasing wait times or reducing appointment availability due to a lack of personnel available.
Our nation's veterans have sacrificed so much for this country, specifically those who served multiple tours. Parents have missed graduations and dance recitals. Brothers and sisters have missed weddings. Families have felt their absences at the holidays. Many of us also have both visible and invisible evidence of this sacrifice: PTSD, lost limbs, depression and anxiety, chronic pain and other injuries. When we swore the oath to serve this country, we knew what we were risking - all for a cause we believed in. We cannot ask our veterans to make yet another sacrifice because of this administration's poor decisions.