Senators from both parties traveled to the embattled southern border this week to get a first-hand look at the raging migrant crisis at the southern border, just days after President Biden himself toured the area.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, led a bipartisan delegation to both Texas and Arizona on Monday and Tuesday to see the ongoing border crisis – with lawmakers hoping it would open up possible solutions back in Washington.
Sinema, in remarks during the trip, blamed a “repeated failure by administration after administration to manage this crisis.” She went on to say that the aim was for the delegation to “work together by putting partisanship aside, listening to local folks on ground who are doing the work and ensuring we’re all working together to find solutions.”
The delegation, which also included Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., James Lankford R-Okla., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., were present when authorities came across two Chinese nationals attempting to cross illegally into the U.S.,
Cornyn told Fox News that the incident was a demonstration of the global nature of smuggling at the border.
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“People wonder what Chinese nationals are doing coming across the southern border,” he said. “Well the fact of the matter is these are international human smuggling organizations, criminal enterprises who for the right amount of money will smuggle you from anywhere in the world.”
The fact-finding mission saw the senators visit both Yuma, Arizona and El Paso, Texas — both areas that have been hard-hit by a migrant crisis that exploded in 2021 and has remained at historic numbers ever since. There were more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021 and more than 2.3 million in FY 2022.
The visit came a day after President Biden had visited El Paso, where he had toured the border and met with elected local officials, community leaders and walked a stretch of the border with Border Patrol agents.
The Biden administration has come under heavy fire for its handling of the border crisis, with critics blaming the administration’s unraveling of Trump-era policies for the surge in migrants. The administration has instead pointed to root causes like poverty and instability in Central America as well as a dismantling of legal pathways by the Trump administration.
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Also on Monday, a group of female Republican senators traveled to the Del Rio Sector on a delegation trip that included a focus on the effects of human and drug trafficking. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and Katie Britt, R-Ala., met with Border Patrol union and Texas Department of Public Safety officials to get what they said would be an “unsanitized” view of the crisis.
Blackburn, in an interview on “The Falkner Focus” said that they had seen how “the cartels are in charge of that border on the Mexico side, and they are dictating exactly how to come across.”
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She noted that the problem of human trafficking into the U.S. has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
“Human smuggling has gone from being a half billion dollar business over the last couple of years, to now you are looking at something nearly a $15 billion business and people are the product in this,” she said.
Blackburn also warned the impact of the crisis doesn’t stay on the border itself.
“The drugs, the human trafficking, the gangs, the sex trafficking, the crime in our cities, the drugs that are in our communities, it is causing a human crisis in our country also,” she said.
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The visit by two major groups of senators indicates how the border crisis will likely remain a top, and heated, political issue in 2023. Questions related to the Title 42 public health order and the Biden administration’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities will go before the Supreme Court, in two cases that could have major impacts on immigration policy.
Also in Washington, Republicans have taken the House of Representatives and are eyeing deeper investigations into the Biden administration’s handling of the crisis, as well as legislative packages to tackle loopholes in the immigration system.
Biden, meanwhile, used the unveiling of a number of border measures last week to again call for Congress to pass a sweeping immigration package first introduced nearly two years ago.
Fox News’ Mark Meredith and Elizabeth Heckman contributed to this report.