Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, says U.S. border officials told him most children detained after illegally crossing the southern border will never be sent home, despite statements from the Obama administration to the contrary.
Just last week, the White House requested authority from Congress to quickly deport tens of thousands of illegal immigrants flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration also asked for $2 billion in emergency funding to increase border security.
Burgess, a career physician, also said federal officials need to be diligent to ensure deadly diseases are not allowed to run rampant after being brought across the border. Last week he visited an alien intake location in Wesleco, Texas, and a detainment center at Lackland Air Force Base. While there, he learned the government has very different plans than the Obama administration’s stated policy of vowing to send people back to their home countries.
“What I was told on the border last week was that as high as 70-75 percent of these individuals will be remaining in the United States,” he said. “I don’t know quite what the disconnect is between what the president’s statements are and the statements I was hearing from people in customs and Border Patrol, FEMA and the federal agencies that are charged with taking care of these folks.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas:
Burgess said the U.S. is capable of caring for the tens of thousands of border crossers on a very temporary basis. He said if this were the extent of the illegal migration wave, it would be daunting enough, but he pointed out that the nation is only at the tip of the iceberg.
"The problem is what happens the next day, and the next day and the next day," he said. "From what I could see of the pipeline, there is no letting up. These numbers are not going to recede. It is going to take some time for those that have already started to transit. Even if you were able to stop people at the southern Mexican border right now from coming across, there are a lot of people in the pipeline."
Burgess explained, "There are a lot of people being held in stash houses in Mexico on the other side of the Rio Grande. There is going to continue to be this pressure on our services, on our resources and on the border. That is the bigger problem here."
Another immediate concern is the possibility of diseases breaking out in the U.S. Reports of tuberculosis, swine flu and scabies have been common over the past few weeks. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., also a longtime doctor, fears some of these diseases could spread too fast to be contained. Burgess said the threat certainly exists, but he said there's no indication that will actually happen.
"Potentially it is a very big issue," he said. "What I have encouraged people at the agency level is to please take this seriously. Don't be dismissive. Don't try to minimize. At the same time, you want to be truthful with people and if the actual incidences of these illnesses is low, then by all means be truthful about it."
He added, "But don't tell people there's no possibility of tuberculosis coming across the border because you know that's not true. When you've got 56,000 people streaming across the border in six months' time, guess what? There are some things that are going to come along for the ride."
Burgess has held numerous meetings on the potential health risks posed by the migrants. In addition to his recent visits to the pair of Texas facilities, he's conferred with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Refugee Relocation.
"I've been very involved in the last month in this process because I want people to be on the level about this. I don't want there to be unnecessary alarm, but at the same time, people do need to use good sense," said Burgess, noting that issues like scabies are not life threatening but other diseases detected certainly can be.
Burgess said processing the tens of thousands of the people is a cumbersome task. He said after being taken into custody, the illegal border crossers go to an initial facility like the one in Wesleco, where as much can be learned about the people as possible. Then they are flown to a separate facility to have their health evaluated. Finally, they are sent to a temporary detention center like he saw at Lackland Air Force Base.
However, not everyone stays within the system. Burgess said he has heard of some intake locations that are simply overwhelmed, and the illegals leave and look for assistance in the nearest towns.
Unlike some members of Congress, Burgess was granted access to the two facilities, but he said his activities in both places were very restricted by government officials and no cameras or recording devices are permitted inside.
The congressman said President Obama should "see what I saw" at the detention facilities, including many children being locked inside individual cells. He also said Obama has an obligation to implore Central American leaders and parents not to send their kids to the U.S.
"He must go publicly, directly to the people in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico and tell the parents in those countries, 'Do not send your children across the interior of Mexico to come across the Rio Grande into Texas. Do not send for your children if you are in this country and you have children back home. Do not send for them through this coyote system that has been developed,'" Burgess said.
He also said Obama needs to get tough on Central American leaders to do much more in securing their own borders and not allowing children and families to be prey for human smugglers.
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