A House Democrat is blasting President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for the havoc the illegal immigration crisis is causing in his Texas border district, slamming the administration for shying away from “uncomfortable” but effective policies.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) made his remarks during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday, where he slammed the Biden administration for creating “incentives” for illegal migration to the US.
“Surely the incentives are there for the smugglers to keep trying to get people over here, they make $6,000 to $8,000 per person,” Cuellar said, explaining how the crisis was worsening with time.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s drugs or people. [Smugglers] make over the years billions of dollars, and we have to understand that if we don’t take this incentive away and address both the push factors and the pull factors, we’re going to keep talking about this year after year.”
Asked to compare how the Biden and Trump administrations responded to immigration issues and matters involving the border, the Texas lawmaker lambasted the federal government for refusing to enforce the nation’s laws.
“This administration, with all due respect, talks about how we’re handling the unaccompanied kids, but that’s one thing,” he said. “I’m glad that we’re doing a much better job, but what about the rest of the people? What about the individual adults that are coming in? We have to talk about that.”
“We always talk about working with Central America, Guatemala and Mexico to do the things, the dirty things we don’t want to do or the uncomfortable things we don’t want to do, and that is deport people. We want them to deport people before they come here, but we’ve got to enforce the law and part of the laws we have is deport the people that don’t have a right to be here in the United States. It’s just plain and simple.”
Harris, who visited Guatemala and Mexico this week as part of her first foreign visit in office, was dogged for her entire trip with questions about going to surveil the situation at the US-Mexico border in person.
Her answer to NBC News’ Lester Holt on the matter has continued to haunt her in the days since.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” a defensive Harris told Holt on “Today” in Guatemala — 1,308 miles away from the US-Mexico crossing.
“We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border, we’ve been to the border,” Harris said, to which Holt replied, “You haven’t been to the border.”
Harris, seeming to laugh at her own joke, responded: “And I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”
In his Thursday interview, Cuellar insisted the president and vice president visit the region to speak with “frustrated” locals about the impacts of their policies.
“I invite the president, I’d like the vice president to come in and with all due respect, not do a staged visit but come and sit down with people,” the Texas Democrat said, suggesting they speak with everyone from sheriffs and business leaders to mayors and judges.
Those locals, he continued, “they’re frustrated because what they’re seeing … people just coming in, and in large numbers.”
Describing recent meetings with law enforcement agencies and constituents, Cuellar said, “They are worried.”
“Land owners are concerned, local sheriffs are concerned, local police are concerned,” he noted. “Somebody needs to listen to our local communities. With all due respect, just coming and doing a staged visit is not enough, they have to understand.”
“Bottom line is this: We believe here on the border in legal migration, we’re just against illegal migration.”
While he said he appreciated Harris saying while in Guatemala that the border was “closed,” Cuellar expressed his concern about a lack of consistent messaging.
“It’s important to have a clear message, and I want to thank the vice president for having a clear message: ‘Don’t come.’ But we need to couple that with some action and some repercussions, because if we don’t show people going back and being returned, then all they see is people coming into the United States, and it’s not coupled with the work that we do,” he explained.
“I mean look at what happened in April, 178,000 people were encountered at the border, we returned 111,000. Nobody talks about the 111,000 people that we returned.”
Asked about the administration’s reluctance to talk candidly about the situation at the border, Cuellar said he would assume politics was to blame, citing appeasement of “immigration activists.”
“They don’t want to aggravate the, you know, the immigration activists, you know, that’s, you know, that’s a major reason there,” he noted, going on to try to offer a full explanation for the dangers of an open border.
“There’s over 150 countries, that, that are represented by people coming in and there’s an increase in people from Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti and Africa and other places, because they’re realizing that at the southern border of the United States,” the House member said, “all they have to do is bring a child, and they’re going to be released into the United States.”
“What a deal for them.”
Reps for Biden and Harris did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on Cuellar’s interview.
The Biden administration’s undoing of former President Donald Trump’s border policies has prompted a flood of Central American and Mexican illegal migrants at the US border, including thousands of unescorted children.
Central Americans looking for refuge from the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras — have taken these policy moves, as well as the overwhelmingly more welcoming tone from Democrats, as a sign that Biden is inviting them to cross the border.
Insisting that the border was not facing a crisis, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in early March that the problems the agency faced should be blamed on the previous administration.
The data, however, overwhelmingly shows that migrants were flooding the border because they believed Biden would welcome them with open arms.