FIRST ON FOX: Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, on Saturday spoke to Fox News as he visited the site of the migrant surge in Del Rio, Texas, saying that the number of predominantly Haitian migrants camping there in squalid conditions is approaching 15,000 -- and warning the situation could get much worse.
"Speaking to Border Patrol agents, the worst is yet to come, they’re worried about what is behind here, they’re worried about co-ordination with Mexico," he told Fox News from Del Rio.
Officials have described an "out of control" situation as they scramble to cope with a flood of migrants that has spiked from 4,000 on Wednesday to now what Pfluger said was 14,878 as of Saturday afternoon. Fox News images have shown migrants streaming across the border by their hundreds for days.
"It’s worse than you could imagine," Pfluger said, whose office also provided images of the chaos to Fox News.
The migrants have set up a de facto camp under the bridge to shelter from the 100 degree heat as their numbers swell and they wait to be processed by Border Patrol. Officials have rushed toilets, water, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to try and help.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have shut down the port of entry in Del Rio, diverting legal trade and travel 57 miles to Eagle Pass, while also shutting down border checkpoints to screen for illegal immigrants and illicit cargo.
On Saturday, DHS announced more agents and staff were on the way and that deportation flights are set to be increased in the coming days, while stressing that "our borders are not open" and saying that most migrants will be expelled via Title 42 public health protections.
Pfluger is one of a number of lawmakers to say that the situation was sparked in part by a halt to deportation flights by the Biden administration, and says that Haitians and others who were waiting in Central America, took that as a green light to come to the U.S.
"So when those flights were stopped by the U.S. government...they got the word and it was like ‘go time,’" he said.
The Texas Republican told Fox that there were reports of criminal activity, as well as prostitution and drugs, while expressing concern about a potential security situation.
"If they decided to riot or if unrest happened, it would be a terrible situation," he said. "It is ripe. It is 100 degrees outside right now and you literally have 14,878 people here -- this is how serious the situation is."
He said that while the majority of migrants were military-age men between 18-35, he said there were a number of families -- as well as heavily pregnant women, one of whom told the congressman she was due "any day."
In addition to the reported halting of the deportation flights, which DHS is now resuming, critics have pointed to the extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians already in the U.S. as well as a broader effort by the Biden administration to rollback Trump-era border protections like border wall construction and the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
The administration has been facing a surge in migration since taking office, which has hit a high of more than 200,000 encounters a month in both July and August. The administration has blamed the Trump administration’s ending of legal asylum pathways, as well as "root causes" like violence, poverty and corruption.
Pfluger called on the Biden administration to reverse its ending of Trump-era policies, and asked: "Where is the leadership?"
"What is the administration doing?" he asked. "Why are they not down here right this second like I am?"
He also contrasted the chaotic situation at the border, where migrants from countries with low vaccination rates are packed next to each other, with the strict COVID protocols being implemented by the Biden administration.
"We've got a vaccine mandate in the United States for companies with 100 or more people and we’ve got 14,878 people here -- are you kidding me? Our priorities are completely out of whack right now."
He praised the hard-working Border Patrol agents, but sounded clearly frustrated as he described how he believed the crisis could have been prevented by action by the administration.
"This is an absolute tragedy of a crisis, completely preventable," he said. "Completely preventable."