Washington — Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas on Sunday urged President Biden to step up enforcement of immigration laws as Republican governors this week ramped up their confrontation with the administration over its border strategy by transporting migrants released from federal custody to Democratic-run cities.
“By sending folks off to New York and Chicago, it does bring attention, but we want to focus more on solutions on the border,” Cuellar, whose district includes areas along the U.S.-Mexico border, said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “We’ve got to give Border Patrol, we’ve got to give ICE, Homeland Security, the equipment — you know, making sure they have everything where they can enforce the law, because if we don’t have repercussions at the border, we’re going to continue getting 8,000 people a day.”
Since Mr. Biden took office andformer President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, Republican governors and lawmakers have mounted a persistent campaign to target the president’s border strategy. Their last week when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defended flying roughly 50 Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard without notifying local officials there, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott arranged to have two buses of migrants dropped off near Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in Washington, D.C.
Texas and Arizona, led by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, have sent at least 295 buses with roughly 13,000 migrants to D.C., New York and Chicago, cities all led by Democrats.
The scheme to transport migrants out of border states is part of a broader effort by Republican officials to force Democratic-led areas to share the burden of accommodating migrants who cross the southern border and are released from federal custody. The latest effort wasfrom Democratic lawmakers and immigration advocates.
“The migrants are human beings, and we’ve got to treat them like human beings,” Cuellar said, adding they are “being used as political pawns to get publicity.”
But the congressman said the Biden administration needs to devote more resources to law enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The men and women in green, the men and women from Homeland, they need to get the support,” Cuellar said. “They are good men and women, and what they need to do is have two things. One, they need to get more personnel, and we’re adding more personnel in the appropriations bill. They need to get the equipment, they need to get help. But the most important thing is they gotta be able to enforce the repercussions.”
To discourage migrants from attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, the Texas Democrat urged the administration to convey the consequences of crossing the southern border by showing images of migrants being sent to their home countries.
“When was the last time you saw a picture or video of people going back?” Cuellar said. “You only see people coming in, and you’ve got to have words along with actual enforcement.”
He also refuted the vice president’s call for Congress to rewrite immigration laws. Mr. Biden last yearto lead the administration’s efforts to curb migration at the southern border amid soaring border apprehensions, and past attempts by lawmakers to reform the nation’s immigration system have failed.
“With all respect to the VP,” Cuellar said, “there are enough laws on the book right now that can return people back.