WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — One Republican lawmaker says the U.S. is being invaded as tens of thousands of children from Central America have illegally crossed the border since last October.
Speaking to “The Glenn Beck Program,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, stated that the Obama administration will not enforce the law as immigrants stream across the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We are under invasion, and this president will not protect our country, and he will not step in and enforce the law as it is,” he said.
Gohmert detailed his recent visit to a Border Patrol facility in McAllen, Texas, where he says up to 1,200 immigrants are being held in “terrible” conditions.
“As one border patrolman said, ‘I would be livid, I would be ballistic, if my child were in this situation,’” Gohmert told “The Glenn Beck Program.” “But the Border Patrol’s hands are tied because the law says Health and Human Services has to take them, and they’re not picking them up.”
Border Patrol agents have apprehended more than 52,000 immigrant children crossing the border alone since October.
About a month ago, Border Patrol agents were suddenly overwhelmed by thousands of Central American immigrant children and women seeking to enter the U.S. Because officials had run out of room at holding facilities, they began releasing immigrant families and requiring them to report back within 15 days.
President Barack Obama has called it a humanitarian crisis, warning parents of the dangers of sending children with smugglers.
“Do not send your children to the borders,” he said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Thursday. “If they do make it, they’ll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it.”
“We’re a passionate society, we care, but you have to enforce the law,” Gohmert stated. “You have this huge surge of people coming to the American border. You’ve got Border Patrol and ICE whose hands are tied up … and in the meantime, it makes easy for the drug cartels to get even more drugs across.”
A new detention center has been opened at the Border Patrol’s training facility in Artesia, N.M, in an effort to shelter immigrants.
With this new facility, women found crossing with children will not be released, but held and quickly processed, a step toward returning the department to its policy of not releasing families and deporting those who don’t have permission to enter the U.S. legally.
Artesia Mayor Phillip Burch said he was told by federal officials that the detention center will likely be in operation for six months to a year, although he thinks it could stay open longer than that.
The Artesia center will only house children caught traveling with their mothers or other female relatives.
Unaccompanied minors will continue to be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The center will hold nearly 700 people in a barracks-style setting, with 30 rooms per building, four bunk beds per room. Each of the three buildings will have one room as playground and one for medical staff.
The buildings have a refrigerator that will be stocked with water, milk and fruit so the children will be able to eat whenever they want. There will be toys, video games and televisions for the kids. And once an 8-foot fence is erected, the children will be allowed to play outside. They may even build a soccer field, the official said.
Some have questioned the amenities, saying they will only encourage immigrants who are desperate for a better life to try to come back.
News of the detention center opening in Artesia has stirred up fear and anger among some residents who worry about possible illnesses, a lack of resources and dramatic changes to this small, close-knit city in the middle of oil and gas country.
Others criticized the federal government’s response.
“What we should do is take them to the Air Force base, put them on a plane escorted by two fighter jets and send them back, and come back for the next group,” said Collier Allan, 62, who lives near the training center.
Burch said some residents were worried about unvaccinated children and some immigrants possibly trying to escape. But he said federal doctors plan to evaluate all immigrants upon entry and then again 48 hours later to ease concerns over diseases.
The federal agency said all the immigrants will be checked for criminal records, and that the officers who will do the interviews are trained to identify criminals.
Asked if it felt like a new prison was opening up in the city, Burch said “to some degree.”
“But the people here are women and children ages infant to 17. They are not hardened criminals,” he said.
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