Last week, I visited the Texas-Mexico border for an updated look at the situation, and I can confirm that this is certainly not a “manufactured crisis” – our border agencies are overwhelmed.

In Texas, most of us have understood the situation for a long time. But talking to representatives from other states, I realized that many of them did not have that same firsthand understanding of the depth of the crisis. So I appreciated two other representatives joining me on this trip: Jody Hice, R-Ga., and Glenn Grothman, R-Wi. Both have been strong supporters of border security and made this trip a priority.

What we saw was an overworked and vastly underfunded Border Patrol trying to deal with an overwhelming flood of migrants and dangerous criminal cartels.

On a previous trip to the border, Border Patrol leadership expressed that they did not have the technology or manpower even to know what the cartels were doing, much less to stop it.

Since then, the situation has only gotten worse.

Forty to 50% of Border Patrol agents in the sectors we visited had been reassigned to process asylum seekers – essentially to do paperwork. Cameras (acquired in the 1990s) in the Laredo sector cover only a small fraction of their assigned territory.

Cartel/smuggler fees just for migrants crossing in the Rio Grande Valley Sector are estimated at about $80 million each week. The Border Patrol’s budget in that sector is around $13 million per year. There is no way to compete with that kind of funding mismatch.

On a late-night tour of hot spots along a section of the Rio Grande controlled by the Zetas, we found constant cartel traffic that overwhelmed the undermanned Border Patrol.

“One of the things we’re seeing in this area is that we are not conducting border security operations any longer,” said one of the agents who accompanied us to the river. “Most of our agents are now dedicated to transporting, feeding and caring for these families that are coming across.”

What we found in talking with Border Patrol agents was a group of good-hearted, dedicated individuals working very hard to protect people, despite being vastly outmanned and underfunded compared to the cartels.

This situation is unsustainable. A phrase we heard repeatedly from Border Patrol agents was “no end in sight.” What is already a crisis will only get worse unless Congress acts.

I recently sent a letter to the White House highlighting seven actions the president’s administration could take right now to ease the immediate crisis. This letter was the product of weeks of research by my office and others to determine what administrative actions could immediately be taken within the confines of current law.

One of those actions would be training Border Patrol agents to conduct “credible fear” interviews when they apprehend asylum seekers. Currently, many asylum seekers are apprehended and then released with a notice to appear (years later, thanks to a 700,000 case backlog) in court, but they often disappear before their court date. Providing Border Patrol with the training and resources to conduct these interviews would prevent these unnecessary releases.

The administration could also terminate the Flores Settlement, a legal agreement that essentially mandated a catch-and-release approach for family units. This has created a tremendous incentive for adult migrants to bring children along for the dangerous journey across Mexico, during which 30-40% of young girls are sexually abused. Border Patrol has identified more than 3,000 fake family units in the past six months and says children are often “rented” to get adults into the country. Family units will continue to overwhelm our border agencies until the Flores Settlement is ended.

But ultimately, Congress will have to act in at least two key areas: reforming our broken asylum system and providing Border Patrol with the infrastructure, technology, and manpower that they need to combat the cartels.

I will continue to work in Congress to build a consensus in these areas. Unfortunately, many members are entrenched in anti-border security positions for political reasons, but I’m working to find common ground to move this issue forward. Meanwhile, I will continue to press the administration for further action on this national emergency.

The situation at our southern border is not simply a developing crisis – it is a genuine humanitarian and criminal disaster that calls for dramatic action.

Michael Cloud was elected this past summer to represent the 27th District of Texas in Congress. Cloud lives in Victoria with his wife, Rosel, and their three children.

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(6) comments

Daniel Martin

Congressman Cloud, While you were there did you visit and of the locations where children are being held? What are the conditions these children are being held in? Do they have a healthy diet? How is their personal hygiene being addressed? Clean clothes, bathing facilities available with soap, towels? What is the status of their healthcare? Doctors, nurses and health technicians in sufficient numbers to care for the children. How many are being held? How long have they been held? Where are the parents and when will they be united? Be sure to keep all those 5 year old Zeta and MS-13 members. And they are "concentration camps" in every sense of the term. And they are on your conscience.

Grace Butler

Immigration to the US is at its lowest in decades. That's a fact, and the "crisis" at the border is a beast of Trump's making. I realize that Cloud is committed to brown-nosing the president, but this is pure propaganda.

Martin Strarup

Geeze Grace, you're delusional.

Grace Butler

Thanks for sharing the facts that repute my statement instead of blindly slinging insults!

Glenn Wilson

Grace, "Immigration to the US is at its lowest in decades." -- That would be legal immigration, not the illegal kind. "the "crisis" at the border is a beast of Trump's making." -- Right, and all the supporting video along with interviews with local, state and federal officials and residents were created by Trump. BTW, Obama also described the situation as a crisis. "...this is pure propaganda." I don't know how you can live in Victoria and still say that - seriously. For a better view of things do as I do; bicycle about 50 miles/week around Victoria's residential streets, all of them, not just the middle and upper class ones. That might clear your head a bit.

Grace Butler

You're correct; it's not lower than it's been in decades. It's lower than it's been in A decade, as per PEW. It's fascinating as the decrease began in 2007 and has continued steadily since then. The crisis is in fact a beast of his own making. For every official who agrees with Trump there is another who doesn't. The "crisis" is people who are attempting to LEGALLY seek asylum but, instead of processing as we have in the past, they're being turned away and made to seem like they're simply more illegal immigrants. They're fleeing from a crisis, sure, and it might be causing a crisis for border control, but it's not a crisis of illegal immigration. It's a humanitarian crisis, if anything, and one we're actively contributing to making worse by our actions. And BTW, I don't give a rat's behind what Obama said about it, because he's barely better than Trump on the issue. Just because I'm an evil libtard doesn't mean I worship the ground Obama walked on. I'm a lot more reasonable than that. Why would visiting Victoria's residential streets help "clear my head"? I guarantee you do not know what part of Victoria I live or grew up in, and I've never seen anything that would make me think that the current fuss over illegal immigration is anything more than scare tactics and outright propaganda. Nobody in the south side of Victoria is holding a sign that says "I'm an illegal immigrant and I'm destroying your country".

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