I recently took an unpopular position for a Democratic member of Congress, in defiance of House leadership.
Before I voted for a bill that would set humanitarian standards for individuals in the custody of Customs and Border Protection – legislation I believe in – I voted for a Republican “Sense of Congress” amendment. The amendment commended the men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol “for continuing to carry out their duties in a professional manner.”
Though I was an outlier as a Democrat, I knew my vote in support of Border Patrol agents was the right thing to do, following my recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus.
Last month I joined 16 other Democrats and Republicans on a trip that included visits to the border at the Rio Grande, as well as tours of a nonprofit care center for unaccompanied teenagers and an immigrant processing facility in McAllen, Texas.
The tours and opportunities to speak with immigrants and CBP agents were not only part of a fact-finding mission, but also a chance to learn more so we can work on bipartisan solutions to help address the humanitarian crisis.
The plight of the immigrants was what stood out to me the most. Many of those we saw were children. Seeing them and hearing just a little bit of their stories was heart-rending.
I’d be remiss if I failed to recognize that a few CBP employees have failed to live up to the standards we expect. But during my visit I witnessed agents carrying out heroic work in very difficult circumstances. The vast majority are good-natured, hardworking men and women who are sympathetic to the plight
I was moved by what I observed and left with a better understanding of what immigrants, those caring for them, and Border Patrol officers are all facing.
What I witnessed was everyone involved trying to make the best of an extremely difficult situation. The unprecedented number of asylum-seeking immigrants attempting to enter our country has forced CBP agents to take on roles that are very different than the primary one they were hired to do, which is protecting the border. We must remember that. The job of CBP is to protect national security.
I’d be remiss if I failed to recognize that a few CBP employees have failed to live up to the standards we expect, but during my visit I witnessed agents carrying out heroic work in very difficult circumstances. The vast majority are good-natured, hard-working men and women who are sympathetic to the plight of immigrant families.
The plight of the immigrants was what stood out to me the most. Many of those we saw were children. Seeing them and hearing just a little bit of their stories was heart-rending. I strongly believe it is not just an American value but a basic human value to uphold the dignity of every individual.
The House took the right step in that direction in June when we passed a $4.5 billion emergency appropriations bill to help those caring for the immigrants. The bill was not perfect, but it had broad bipartisan support and provided immediate resources when there was no time to wait.
During our visit, many CBP agents thanked all of us in the Problem Solvers Caucus for our work to help pass the $4.5 billion in emergency funding. We heard what a difference it has already made.
The Problem Solvers Caucus will continue to lead in developing commonsense ways to ease this crisis, as there are no simple answers and much of the problem lies beyond our borders. But we must look at everything that is playing a role in the crisis and work together for solutions.
And we must support the CBP agents who are doing their best to improve the situation.