HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham had a press conference Friday to discuss the ‘humanitarian crisis’ at Texas southern border and the rise of COVID-19 cases amongst migrants and border agents.
A release states Cuellar and Graham are prioritizing the health and safety of the community and border agents as the region experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases.
“Recently, 80 border agents tested positive for COVID-19 in the Rio Grande Valley sector, with another 17 border agents testing positive for COVID-19 in the Laredo sector. Additionally, more than 100 border agents are in isolation for COVID-19 exposure,” said the release.
Representative Henry Cuellar started the conference with an explanation of the issues of COVID cases among immigrants and agents at the border.
Cuellar discussed his personal relationship with the border and the opportunities he has had to speak with agents and their families.
They don’t need pat’s on the back they need help on the border.Representative Henry Cuellar
Rep. Cuellar concluded his introduction by clarifying that he simply wants to express to the senator and the public what the people within his community are seeing and feeling.
Describing the incidents in which people within his community are seeing individuals crossing the border and into their neighborhoods and schools.
I have been very respectful when it comes to administration, but something has to change when it comes to border immigration issues.Representative Henry Cuellar
Senator Lindsey Graham agreed with Cuellar saying one can not appreciate what is going on by the border unless you listen to the people who live there.
Graham concluded that comprehensive immigration reform in his view is still very much needed, but you can’t legalize people until your first secure the border.
The Senator explained his belief in creating a pathway to citizenship, switching to a merit-based immigration system to help the economy going forward. However, believes you can not do that without fixing the border.
Graham announced in the presser that he has written multiple letters to government officials on the border issues.
Cuellar and Graham wrote one of the letters in a partnership to President Joe Biden asking to put a new set of eyes on the problem.
Graham and Cuellar wrote in the letter that the issue at hand needed a new pair of eyes that would have credibility with congress. Both agreed that Jeh Johnson a Democrat who served with Obama to be the best outside opinion as he has dealt with similar issues when serving as Secretary of Homeland Security.
Graham believes appointing Johnson would aid in finding solutions quickly.
Somethings gotta give, a new set of eyes… So what were asking for is for the administration to put somebody new. A new set of eyes incharge of this problem and working in a bipartisan way to provide the resources and policy changes… and give the people of Laredo and surrounding area some relief.Senator Lindsey Graham
Sen. Graham wrote a separate letter to Dr. Fauci the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Explaining to Fauci before telling the nation what to do, he must look at the border and give guidance on what changes need to be made.
Individuals crossing the border into the United States are often transferred within the U.S. to other states and are likely to spread infection. Graham backed the statement with a statistic of Guatemala being less than one percent vaccinated.
I can’t go to Canada. You can’t go to Europe. Becuase of COVID restirctions, but with having 1.2 million people cross our border and being detained…this just makes no sense, it’s dangerous and needs to stop.Senator Lindsey Graham
On Monday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem visited the 48 National Guard troops deployed in the Rio Grande Valley from her state.
In late June, Noem joined a list of Republican state governors who committed to sending their National Guards to the Southern border, including governors from Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska, and Iowa.
The press conference from Cullar and Graham also comes after the La Joya Police Department expressed concerns following the encounter of COVID-19 positive migrants at a local fast-food restaurant.
The Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Executive Director Sister Norma Pimentel has since released a statement saying it was an “isolated case.”
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Wednesday restricting the ground transportation of migrants and only allowing local, state and federal law enforcement officials to do so. The executive order allows the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to stop any vehicle they believe is carrying migrants and ask them to return to their point of origin. If the driver refuses, DPS can also impound the vehicle.
Sister Norma responded by stating that such action could lead to ‘catastrophic outcomes’, explaining that COVID-19 positive migrants that arrived at the center were transported to hotels in order to isolate them from the rest of the individuals in the building that test negative. The executive order removes that ability from the center.
Thursday, The Texas Tribune reported U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland told Abbott in a letter that the governor’s executive order “violates federal law in numerous respects, and Texas cannot lawfully enforce the Executive Order against any federal official or private parties working with the United States.”
The press conference is set to begin at 10 a.m.