A delegation of 19 Republican senators—19—led by John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are set to visit the Rio Grande Valley on Friday, claiming in a statement to be concerned about what they call in that document a “humanitarian crisis” at the border. With them will be pro-immigrant legislators (sarcasm) like Tom Cotton, who will no doubt arrive with policy solutions, responsible rhetoric, and a genuine concern for children (even more sarcasm).
If it all sounds like just another border stunt by Republicans, that’s because that’s what this is, and there’s not enough side-eye in the world for this. It’s not just any old stunt, but one that 19 Senate Republicans are shamelessly carrying out after spending four years ignoring the anti-immigrant abuses of the prior administration. Many of these abuses targeted the very asylum-seeking kids they’re now pretending to give a shit about.
Just a few weeks before a federal judge ordered a stop to the policy, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation blocking the previous administration from forcibly separating children from their parents at the border. The Keep Families Together Act would eventually get 48 cosponsors. But there was no delegation of 19 outraged senators going to Feinstein’s office to add their names. In fact, not one single Republican signed onto the bill, either afraid of the previous occupant of the White House, supportive of the family separation policy, or maybe both.
There was no delegation of 19 outraged Republican senators when children died in custody of the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for the first time in years. Making the deaths of 7-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin and 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo all the more tragic and senseless is that they were preventable, a top medical expert told Congress last year. NBC News reported at the time that the pediatrician’s findings were backed up by a Government Accountability Report (GAO) “indicating that CBP has not implemented medical care policies consistently across its facilities at the southwest border.”
There was no delegation of 19 outraged Republican senators when the previous president blamed his political opponents for these children’s deaths. “Any deaths of children or others at the Border are strictly the fault of the Democrats and their pathetic immigration policies,” he tweeted back when he was able to.
Congress gave CBP emergency humanitarian funds to prevent further tragic deaths, but the GAO said in another report that the agency broke the law and spent the emergency funding meant for food and medical care for detained people on a canine program, dirt bikes, and computer network upgrades. CBP also used the money on its employee flu vaccine program as it also refused to vaccinate detained families against the flu. But there was no delegation of 19 outraged Republican senators then.
Like Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent border stunt, none of these 19 Senate Republicans will go in front of cameras—because that’s their big purpose there, they’re not visiting detention facilities for nothing—with humane solutions. They’ll be there to opine, to use vulnerable children fleeing violence as their political pawns, and to likely offer to broker “deals” that will only break down the asylum system even more. Because when John Cornyn’s involved, beware the “Cornyn Con.”
To see where to begin to protect vulnerable children, build a better immigration and asylum system, and help address the root causes of why people flee to our border, start with El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar instead, not anyone in that above list. “Those of us who represent border communities can help the administration reshape a system that has focused on border militarization, a flawed and expensive strategy that we should all agree—after decades and hundreds of billions of dollars—is a failure,” she writes in an important op-ed in The New York Times.
“If we continue to ignore the facts and use the same failed approaches of the past, we shouldn’t be surprised when we have the same conversations every year,” Escobar continues. “The Biden administration is willing to try new approaches and focus on solutions; it wants to restore order and humanity once and for all. It deserves a chance.” Read her op-ed here, and be on the lookout for bullshit tomorrow.