Cuellar blames immigration increase on lack of strong messages

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The Rio Grande Valley has been the focus of the immigration debate the past few weeks. KVEO spoke with a local leader for their take on the border situation.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had around 172,000 encounters with migrants in March 2021, nearly 70,000 more than in March 2019.

The exact amount of encounters by CBP agents for March is 172,331. That’s 71,303 more encounters than CBP agents had in February of this year.

Representative Henry Cuellar, Texas 28th congressional District, said the Biden Administration isn’t doing a good enough job showing the reality migrants who cross the border in hopes of claiming asylum face. Stating the vast majority of them will be denied asylum and will be returned home.

“The feeling out there in Central America is just very simple,” said Cuellar, while discussing the process of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. “It’s a speed bump and ‘once I get past that speed bump, I get in’.”

Of the 172,000 encounters with migrants that Border Patrol had in March, 96,628 of those encounters were with single adults. The remaining 75,000 or so encounters were with 52,901 family units and 18,663 unaccompanied minors.

The majority of those adults would be denied access under U.S. Code Title 42, which allows the United States Border Patrol and U.S. Customs to prohibit the entry of persons who potentially pose a health risk, either by being subject to previously announced travel restrictions or because they unlawfully entered the country to bypass health screening measures, according to the CBP website.

“Title 42 is being used on adults, but we don’t see it, right? I mean we’re returning most of those people back, why are there no images or visuals to show those people being returned?” asked Cuellar.

The congressman referenced the efforts taken by President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson during the 2014 immigration surge, specifically the actions Johnson took to deter more migrants from coming.

“He purposefully wanted to show people being returned, so there would be an understanding that there were consequences,” Cuellar said.

He told KVEO that something like that wasn’t happening now, and the surge was the result of that. “If there are no consequences, it doesn’t matter. People will keep coming.”

Cuellar said that around 88% of asylum applications are denied.

According to data from the Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, in the fiscal year 2020, 85.5% of applicants from Guatemala were denied asylum, 81.9% of El Salvadorian’s had their asylum requests denied, as well as 87.3% and 85% of people from Honduras and Mexico respectively.

It appears that the relatively low number of accepted asylum applications has not deterred people from making the journey to the border.

“The input is so bad that they are now releasing families without even a notice to appear before an immigration judge,” said Cuellar.

Data trends on the CBP website show that the most encounters between Border Patrol and migrants tend to happen in the late Spring months of April and May. That trend will likely continue this year.

Cuellar said the situation is now beyond the point of just giving aid to countries most migrants are coming from, the U.S. needs to get those countries to work to keep migrants there.

“Do more to keep your people,” said Cuellar. “You’re losing a generation of young people; doesn’t that bother you if you are president? Doesn’t that bother you that your people are leaving your country in droves?”

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