Democrats and Republicans clash over illegal immigration and national security on trip to southern border
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McAllen, TX- A congressional trip to South Texas on Friday led committee members to exchange partisan broadsides on immigration, hear decorum and consider whether members are taking various issues near the southern border seriously.
The House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth was in McAllen, Texas, for a hearing on the living conditions and infrastructure of area residents. It was led by Chairman Representative Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Representative Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, in whose district the hearing was held.
During the trip, members visited impoverished “colonia” settlements near the border, which often lack running water and sewage, and sat down to hear from neighborhood residents.
Regardless of the official part of the committee’s trip, Republicans traveled to the border itself to witness what they called a major crisis that is the fault of the Democrats.
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“It’s anarchy and the chaos is spiraling out of control,” Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, said after a tour of the Rio Grande with soldiers from the Texas Department of Public Safety. Representative Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., and Representatives Byron Donalds, R-Fla., and Kat Cammack, R-Fla., and Kat Cammack, R-Fla., also participated in the tour.
Officers showed members the heavy federal and Texas state law enforcement presence along the river, as well as a section of privately built border wall between the river and farmers’ fields in the American side.
The boat also stopped at several places to visit the landing points for migrants who cross the Rio Grande in rafts. The brush along the bank at these locations was heavily trampled, signaling that a large amount of traffic had passed. Deflated rafts, empty water bottles, personal items and even makeshift resting shelters were also visible on the banks.
“We have Democratic members of Congress who were with us four hours ago who are not with us now,” Donalds said. “That should say it all to the American people. And so people are going to have choices in November. It’s a lot more than politics. It’s national security.”
“We are here at the epicenter of the worst national security crisis and the most immediate threat to the American people,” Arrington said. “So whether they’re on this tour with us or whether they feel more comfortable being alone on a tour or doing something related to the issue that affects the safety and security of the American people more than anything else. Where is this tour? Where are these events?”
Arrington added, “Where are the meetings with Homeland Security personnel, ICE agents, DPS soldiers? I don’t think that’s happening and I think it’s a missed opportunity.”
There were also fireworks in the audience on the ground. Republicans have attacked President Biden and Democrats over border security and the cost of unprecedented border crossings into Texas and the broader United States.
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Cammack asked witnesses for the Democrats in the hearing whether they would say yes or no if there was a border crisis — they largely declined to answer the question directly. Arrington also asked for a raise if witnesses believed the cartels were operationally controlling the border.
Democrats, meanwhile, focused their questions on the stated goal of the hearing, which was to improve the quality of infrastructure and help very poor residents of South Texas. They expressed some annoyance about the Republicans’ focus on the border.
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But after the hearing, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, blasted Republicans for allegedly slandering his community during the hearing. He said that despite Republican implications of a border crisis, McAllen and surrounding areas are not dangerous as claimed.
“I was appalled that my fellow Republicans took this unique opportunity to portray South Texas as an anarchic and dangerous community,” Gonzalez said in a tweeted statement. “With all their statistics, they failed to mention that the Rio Grande Valley is home to some of the safest communities in the entire country.”
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“It is ignorant and very disrespectful to my fellow Republicans to continue to use the Rio Grande Valley as a political backdrop and to use my constituents as political pawns,” he continued. “It’s time for my fellow Republicans to take the time to sit down and learn a thing or two about what South Texans are like.”
The Select Committee will hold another hearing this week on tax policy.