Democrat Henry Cuellar slams Biden's handling of border crisis: 'Doing a staged visit is not enough'

Cuellar: 'We’ve got to enforce the law'

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, slammed the Biden administration's handling of the border crisis Thursday, stressing the need to address its policies encouraging migrants to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. 

Cuellar told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the administration needed to do more than just talk about how it was handling the record number of migrant children, including carrying out deportations and actually visiting the border. "Doing a staged visit is not enough," he said.

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"The incentives are there for the smugglers to keep trying to get people over here. They make $6,000 to $8,000 per person … They 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," Cuellar said, reacting to the record number of apprehensions at the border. 

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Wednesday that more than 180,000 migrants were encountered while attempting to enter the U.S. via the southern border in May. The new numbers show continued month over month increases this year from even previous staggering highs.

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Cuellar argued various policy factors needed to be addressed, in addition to the social and economic issues in migrants' home countries. 

"If you notice this administration, with all due respect, talks about how we’re handling the unaccompanied kids, but that’s one thing … But what about the rest of the people? What about the individual adults who are coming in? We have to talk about that," Cuellar said. "We’ve got to enforce the law, and part of the laws that 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."

Vice President Kamala Harris committed Tuesday to visiting the border at an unspecified date. Her announcement followed months of criticism, including urgings from Cuellar, over not making the trip following her appointment in March as the Biden administration's point person on the crisis.

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"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 … They need to listen to other people who have lived here, like myself," Cuellar said. "We have a lifetime of experience. You know, a couple of hours or a visit doesn’t substitute for a lifetime of experience."