Vice President Mike Pence and a group of Republican and Democratic U.S. senators will visit McAllen on Friday as national attention on the southern border has mounted over the conditions of migrants in federal custody.
Pence and senators from the Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to conduct private meetings with U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in McAllen, home to a large Border Patrol temporary detention facility which was built in 2014.
Officials opened up the facility for a rare tour to the news media in June. The Monitor was not invited to that event.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General issued a report on five different Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley that detailed squalid conditions. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, who has toured the facility before, visited it again last week. Cruz, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is not expected to return with the delegation on Friday.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, also on the committee, will be part of the McAllen trip. Cornyn has traditionally visited the Valley multiple times per year, but because of various immigration-related issues in recent years, President Trump and Pence have both visited the region, and Friday will mark Pence’s second South Texas stop in the last two years.
“The Senate passed bipartisan humanitarian relief – but much more must be done to SECURE our border & end this crisis!” Pence wrote on Twitter on Monday.
The legislation he referred to was a recent multi-billion dollar border spending package, including $30 million for reimbursements of which governments and non-governmental organizations can apply. Border cities like McAllen, which has spent more than $1.2 million since 2014 on immigration relief, could benefit from reimbursements.
In the McAllen area, Border Patrol agents have been apprehending asylum-seeking migrants after they cross the Rio Grande and then releasing them after a brief period since 2014, when the surge in Central American migrants began. Authorities then drop them off at the downtown McAllen bus station, where workers for Catholic Charities await.
“The federal government must take financial responsibility for migrant care,” Cornyn said in a statement following the legislation’s passage. “Texas communities have gone above and beyond, expending resources to provide shelter and food for migrants in need. With federal reimbursement money included in this bill, Texas cities and non-profits will be able to return their focus to serving the community the way they know best.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include the fact U.S. Sen. Cornyn will be accompanying the vice president on his trip to the Rio Grande Valley.