Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) on the trip to El Paso shortly after President Joe Biden visited the border for the first time since he took office two years ago.
The tour comes as the number of migrants crossing the border has surged during Biden’s first two years of presidency, with border patrol agents making more than 2.2 million arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2022 fiscal year, which ended in September.
The bipartisan group, made up of three Democrats, four Republicans, and one independent, met with city officials, law enforcement officials, business owners, and local nonprofit organizations at a temporary emergency migrant operations facility on Monday. There, they discussed the impact the influx of illegal aliens had had on the city and the growing humanitarian crisis that is now impacting local communities.
During the meeting, the group heard from El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, a Democrat, who has previously warned that thousands of illegal aliens are piling up at the border waiting for the Trump-era Title 42 program to end so that they can apply for asylum in the United States without having to wait in Mexico for their request to be approved.
‘Everything We Do Right Now Is a Band-Aid’
“We look to all you colleagues for guidance to fix a broken immigration system process that’s been broken for many years,” Leeser told lawmakers, according to El Paso television station, KFOX-TV. “Everything we do right now, is a band-aid and we do need to fix it.”
The group later went on to tour the temporary facility that has been established for illegal immigrants as well as the El Paso Del Norte port of entry, according to reports.
During the tours, Sinema took to Twitter to share updates. On Monday, the Democrat-turned-Independent wrote that the meeting with city officials had given lawmakers “insight into how we can fix our broken system.”
“I’m taking this info back to DC to keep working on bipartisan solutions to secure the border, keep communities safe, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely,” Sinema wrote.
In a separate video message online, Sinema took aim at the Biden administration’s failure to take action to secure the border and ensure a humane process for illegal aliens entering the United States.
“I’ll get back to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, working to ensure that we’re actually changing the laws in our country so we can have a more appropriate enforcement, allow folks to come to this country peacefully, safely and humanely but also to keep our border secure.”
Due to the current 51–49 split between Democrats and Republicans, the Senator’s plan to tackle the border crisis will need bipartisan cooperation to meet the required 60-vote threshold.
Lawmakers Share Plan to Tackle Border Crisis
Elsewhere, Cornyn told a news conference: “We need an immigration system that is safe, orderly, humane, and legal. We keep hearing from President Biden and others that we need Congress to step up and provide some answers, and I’m happy that we are.”
On Twitter, Cornyn shared updates from his visit to the border; writing on Twitter Monday that he was with border patrol agents who had detained two Chinese nationals who had attempted to cross illegally into El Paso.
Later, Cornyn shared a photo of part of a makeshift patch of the border fence where he said smugglers had cut a hole for migrants. The lawmaker also laid out plans Monday under which he said Biden could “stop the current crisis at the border under current law.”
The steps included utilizing title 8 expedited removal for all adults and accompanied children encountered at the border, detaining all illegal aliens allowed under current statute pending removal or immigration court proceedings, expediting asylum hearings for those claiming asylum at the border to less than a month and prioritizing them over backlogged cases and negotiating safe third-country agreements and removal agreements with Mexico and as many Central American countries as possible.
Cornyn also called on Biden not to end Title 42 until at least four of the steps the Republican lawmaker laid out have been achieved.
The lawmakers’ promise to work on a bipartisan solution to the border crisis comes after Biden arrived in El Paso on Sunday following growing scrutiny from Republican lawmakers for his failure to do so.
Biden was greeted by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott after he touched down before meeting with Border Patrol agents and workers at a migrant services center.
“They need a lot of resources,” Biden told reporters on Sunday afternoon after meeting with officials. “We’re going to get it for them.”