A congressional hearing on the rising numbers of unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. from Central America was held in the border town of McAllen Thursday -- and it featured Gov. Rick Perry.
Chief Kevin Oaks, who’s in charge of some 3,200 border patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley, testified that he’s on the front lines of the crisis unfolding along the Texas border.
“We face an urgent situation in the Rio Grande Valley,” he said.
Last fiscal year, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended more than 24,000 unaccompanied children at the border. By mid-June this year, that number has more than doubled – to 52,000.
The number of minors currently in federal detention centers is unprecedented. Dallas County officials on Thursday announced three potential sites that could house about 2,000 of the immigrant children.
Governor Rick Perry says Texas knows how to secure its border, but needs the federal government to pay for it. Texas should be reimbursed for $500 million to cope with rising numbers along the border, he said.
“You can secure the border -- because we’ve done it in sectors,” Perry said. “We have not had the resources and the manpower for a 1,200 mile border.”
What’s happening at the border is a humanitarian crisis, Perry says. But he adds that those who come must be sent back.
“Some may think that by allowing them to stay here that it’s a more humane option and I assure you it’s not,” Perry said. “Nobody’s doing any of these children the slightest favor by delaying the rapid return to their countries of origin. … Allowing them to remain here will only encourage the next group of individuals to undertake this very very dangerous and life-threatening journey. And those who come must be sent back.”
Perry spoke before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee. While in South Texas, committee members visited detention centers, military bases and border patrol stations. One compared a detention center to a refugee camp.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston brought lollipops to the detainees. She saw women and babies sleeping without blankets – something she called tragic.