Delaware's U.S. Senator Tom Carper led a delegation of other lawmakers to the southern border recently to assess the evolving situation of detained unaccompanied children as they attempted cross the Mexico-American border.
"I want to talk about the root causes," said Carper. "We've certainly had an illuminating day."
Watch the entire press conference here:
The visit comes on the heels of data reviewed by national media outlets released from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection stating migrants crossing states has peaked at its highest level in 15 years, with more than 171,000 migrants being stopped in March 2021, 18,000 of which were unaccompanied minors. That was up from the 97,000 arrested in February.
"Let me cut to the chase: What do we need to do now," Carper said on April 5, 2021. "God bless you, we saw some wonderful people today doing the Lord's work, with a lot of kids taking a handout from CBP, where kids are in tough situations, very tough conditions, and they are now in much better conditions, much more humane conditions, learning, being fed, clothed, and are reunited with their loved ones. That's great. But if that's all we do, addresses symptoms of these problems, take in the least of these and try to help them, if that's all we do, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, we're going to be still doing this."
Joined by Representatives Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Norma Torres (CA-35), Lou Correa (CA-46), and Jason Crow (CO-06), Carper said they toured the U.S Department Health and Human Services sites housing the unaccompanied and detained children--most from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras--who are fleeing countries where poverty, extreme weather, corruption, and crime are the rampant root causes to mass exodus.
But while current efforts to improve the situation seem to have shown to be effective, Carper said we need to continue doing more.
He listed several priorities he'll be recommending to President Joe Biden to remedy the crisis:
- Put somebody in charge of the overall effort--"Not day-to-day, like going to work every day punching the clock and being in charge in that way. No, no, no; 30,000 feet."
- Senate-confirmed career Ambassadors: "We haven't had a senate-confirmed ambassador in Honduras for over three years. It shouldn't be a surprise that we've seen one president of that country go to hell in a handbasket, rather than prison. He's probably going there as well."
- Re-establish oversight: "Make sure that money that we're appropriating--a lot of money--is actually used for the purpose that it's intended."
- Surround those leaders with the best: "The cream of the crop. We need to surround them with excellent people, excellent men and women, who know those countries, know what to do, come to work early, work hard, work late."
Messaging is key, Carper said, and showing the people Biden is doing what he can as quickly as possible to improve conditions with an Associated Press poll showing the approval rating for the border situation is only 25%.
"I just outlined, I think, a series of steps, to go at it [and] actually amplify it, and make it clear, and do them," Carper said. "Not just for weeks, not just for months, but for years. And the American people, a lot of people, don't know what we're doing...We just have to explain it. And then we have to get some results."
In the meantime, Carper said its more important to focusing on establishing that foundation for where good work can be done, because the current infrastructure isn't modeled effectively, and that has to change.
"What we have sought to do is provide a relief valve. Children show up, taken it into custody, CBP, they're doing work, they're not trained to do this stuff," Carper said. "They don't want to do this. They want to be able to turn these kids over to the Department of Health and Human Services, where they can be treated by people who are trained to do this for a living."
On Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Carper has a planned conference at Wilmington's Latin American Community Center to discuss his findings at the border in greater detail.