GOP lawmakers travel to US-Mexico border; Dems call for phasing out ICE contracts

Immigration

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy traveled with a group of Republican lawmakers to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on Monday.

Meanwhile, Democrats are calling on President Joe Biden’s administration to phase out contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

McCarthy said the trip aims to address what he calls “a full-on crisis,” as the number of migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border has risen rapidly in recent weeks. A growing number of children are stuck in Border Patrol stations while they await transfers to increasingly crowded federal shelters.

U.S. authorities saw a 60% increase in children crossing the southwest border alone between January and February to more than 9,400.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help care for the growing number of migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

It follows the Biden administration’s plans to relieve the strain of thousands of unaccompanied children coming to the southern border by ending an order under former President Donald Trump that discouraged potential family sponsors from coming forward to care for them.

The 2018 policy called on the Health and Human Services Department to share information about family sponsors with immigration authorities, a move that discouraged parents and other relatives from stepping forward out of fear they would be deported.

McCarthy – who blames Biden’s policies for the recent border surge – said he sent a letter to the president earlier this month to discuss the border crisis. But the Republican leader said he has not heard back from Biden.

The group on Monday planned to tour the El Paso Processing Center, which is run by ICE, as well as the portion of the border where Texas, New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet, according to the Border Report.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has been working to repeal Trump’s policies that discouraged people from seeking refuge in the U.S. The changes include a move to unwind a policy that made asylum-seekers wait in Mexico for court hearings in the United States.

About 1,000 people with active cases have been admitted to the U.S. to await the outcome of their claims, with 25,000 or so eligible to come in the coming months.

The administration also has announced that it’s resuming a program that Trump ended that makes it easier for Central American children to join their parents in the United States. Under the Central American minors policy, children can apply for legal status in the United States in their own countries instead of making the dangerous journey to the U.S. border with Mexico.

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar on Monday sent a letter to two Biden administration officials, expressing support for the president’s order in January that directed the Justice Department to phase out its use of private prisons. Omar and nearly two dozen other Democratic lawmakers are now calling on the Biden administration to announce a plan to phase out contracts between ICE and state, county and local jails and prisons.

“Conditions in municipal, county, and state jails and prisons contracting with ICE to detain immigrants mirror the systemic abuses in privately operated immigration detention facilities, including medical neglect, long term use of solitary confinement, sexual assault and lack of access to legal counsel,” Omar wrote.

The group urged for an executive order directing such action “in order to truly sever the financial incentives causing the expansion of an unnecessary and abuse-ridden system of mass incarceration.”

READ THE FULL LETTER BELOW:

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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