Rep. Joyce: Immigrant ‘crisis is real’ at Arizona border
Congressman John Joyce, a Hollidaysburg Republican, said he was stunned with what he saw on a congressional trip to the U.S.-Mexico border at Yuma, Ariz., this week.
His trip with a contingent of Republican congressmen coincided with an emergency declaration by Yuma Mayor Douglas Nicholls, who called for a “FEMA-type response” as officials tried to cope with a surge of asylum-seeking migrants from Central America streaming into overtaxed facilities in the border city of 100,000 people.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Border Patrol agents had apprehended more than 1,000 migrants in the Yuma sector over a three-day period and that during the seven-month period from Sept. 1 through March 31, the number of migrants apprehended there had increased from 6,487 during the same period the prior year to more than 24,000.
“It was eye-opening, to say the least. … Trust me: after what I’ve seen this week, the crisis is real,” Joyce said of the vast stream of migrants who are walking into the U.S. through the Arizona desert.
Joyce, a physician, said he learned a child had been detained with its mother and was being treated for measles at the Yuma center. It was the first measles case at the facility. But even more frightening, he said, were the 12 tuberculosis cases, including multiple cases of antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, among migrants being detained and treated there.
He said exhausted Border Patrol agents working double shifts to fill the gaps in a manpower shortage took his contingent into the desert to see what was happening as groups of asylum-seeking migrants sat down, calmly waiting to be taken in for processing.
“The largest apprehension was 32 adults, each one of them with a child, each one of them with a fast pass to entry,” Joyce said. He said agents told them those with a child are often processed, given a date for a hearing and released in as soon as a day and a half.
Joyce said he’s particularly concerned about reports that some children are used as ploys by unrelated adults, and then sent back across the border to be used again and again by others.
He said he plans to co-sponsor H.R. 586. Joyce said the bill, penned by Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, was designed to protect such children by requiring that they be released only to individuals who can prove they are a parent or legal guardian.
Joyce said the overwhelming message he took away from his visit is that congress must fix loopholes in the nation’s asylum system, provide adequate funds for manpower and technology at the border and build the wall.
“By building that wall, we can allow the border patrol to push immigrants to the ports of entry to be processed,” he said.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .