By now you've heard about the growing crisis at our southern border, or at least have seen photos in your social media feeds or in the news. Pictures and videos of young children and teenagers huddled together in Donna and McAllen, Texas under emergency blankets; children begging for help from Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officials as they make their way across the Rio Grande Valley in the dead of night; and cartel members dumping children into U.S. custody before escaping back to Mexico.
The difference between you and me, however, is that I've seen these very things firsthand. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I've traveled to our southern border twice to see with my own eyes the crisis that's been growing in intensity over the last three months. My Democratic colleagues and this administration refuse to call the surge of migrants at our southern border a "crisis" but it's hard to view it as anything but. Instead of calling it a full-blown humanitarian and national security crisis, Democrats are more focused on expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court, labeling all things under the sun "infrastructure," and attempting to take away our enshrined Constitutional freedoms.
While my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, DHS Secretary Mayorkas, and even so-called "border czar" Vice President Harris herself fail to understand the gravity of this situation, I've visited the very sites on the front lines of this crisis and what I've seen is equal parts heartbreaking and horrifying. It's well past time we secure the border and put an end to what's happening there.
During my trips, I watched through night vision goggles as cartel members smuggled adults and children through the brush of the Rio Grande Valley into the U.S. in total darkness. I joined border officials during a nighttime operation where gang members taunted U.S. officials just 20 yards away on the other side of the river. I visited the site where abandoned materials for construction of the border wall—a wall we as taxpayers are still paying for—lay strewn about haphazardly when President Biden halted the wall's construction via executive order. I encountered young teenage girls carrying birth control pills in plastic bags with them in their backpacks sent along by their parents knowing they would be raped during their long journeys to the U.S. I met dozens of children under the age of six carried into the United States on the backs of adults who aren't their parents, or even relatives at all, just using them as a means to gain entry into our country. I stood in the back of a semi truck as hundreds of pounds of drugs were seized by border agents searching a randomly stopped tractor trailer.
Though everything I saw sticks with me, no one experience rocks me more so than when I met a nine-year-old girl—introduced to me after a briefing with border officials—who was not able to speak or even tell me her name because her vocal cords had given out from screaming after being gang raped during her trip to the U.S. If it's not enough to know that this has happened once, border officials told me they've met dozens of other children, some as young as the girl I met, who have experienced similar horrors. These disgusting tragedies are happening all because President Biden's executive orders have incentivized migrants to make their way to the United States without consequence.
Whenever I talk about what I've seen at the border, people are always quick to point out that President Trump created this mess. They're wrong. In March 2020, CBP encountered 34,000 individuals at the southern border. In March 2021, they encountered over 172,000—more than four times what occurred in the same period last year. If you think that's merely coincidental, nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children crossed the border—a 65 percent increase from the previous monthly record of 11,475. As the pace of illegal crossings speeds up, CBP estimates the number of total border crossings to rise more than 25,000 by the end of May. And if this continues? DHS is on track to encounter more than two million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border by year's end. This doesn't include the "getaways," people who have successfully evaded interdiction at the border and are often known criminals, gang members, and cartel leaders.
One remarkable standout that I recall from my visits is the consistency of Border Patrol agents in their response to my questions about solutions to these problems. "What is the answer? What can we do? What do you need from Washington?" I ask.
Across the border and across the agency, the agents all respond the same:
Enforce current laws on the books;
Extend Title 42, a CDC public health directive that denies entry to migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
Reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocol, which encourages individuals seeking admission into the U.S. to wait in their home country for the duration of immigration proceedings with appropriate humanitarian protections;
Resume construction of the physical infrastructure—the force-multiplying border wall;
Publicly discourage illegal entry to the U.S.;
Reinstate agreements with triangle countries;
Support and respect agents publicly; and
Require lawmakers to see the border situation for themselves.
All of these solutions are achievable and have been used successfully before. Undoing everything the Trump administration did has proven to create disorder at the border by executive order that affects communities across the country.
In the meantime, Vice President Harris will visit New Hampshire, which is the wrong border state. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will do her best to avoid using the word crisis in her daily briefings. DHS Secretary Mayorkas won't leave the McAllen, Texas airport during his "visits" to the border. You may not be able to count on this administration to fight against the cartels and secure our borders, but you can believe my Republican colleagues and I won't stop fighting to hold this administration accountable and to call this what it is: a crisis at our southern border.
Congresswoman Kat Cammack represents Florida's Third Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. She serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and is Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response & Recovery.