Recently, Dr. Dunn joined several members of the GOP Doctors Caucus in traveling to our southern border. Below is the op-ed they wrote on their experiences that was published on FoxNews.com.
Six GOP Doctors Caucus members: Here’s what we saw on our trip to the border and our major takeaways
By Rep. Phil Roe, M.D., Rep. Michael Burgess, M.D., Rep. Neal Dunn, M.D., Rep. Earl ‘Buddy’ Carter, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, M.D., Rep. Roger W. Marshall, M.D.
The humanitarian crisis at our southern border has reached a critical point. However, it can be difficult to discern what’s really happening with so many conflicting accounts of how migrants are treated when they cross our border.
As medical providers, we’re particularly concerned about migrants’ health and any communicable diseases spreading in detention facilities. In late June, we traveled to the Rio Grande Valley Sector (RGVS) to personally observe the situation, accompanied by senior Department of Homeland Security medical personnel who stressed the significant challenges of incorporating a fully functioning medical system into a law enforcement agency.
Our Border Patrol personnel are working hard to process and properly care for a significant influx of migrants. Detained migrants nearly tripled in one year in RGVS, from 17,491 apprehensions in May 2018 to nearly 50,000 in May 2019. At one nearby checkpoint, we witnessed two groups of migrants turn themselves in after crossing into America. The migrants approached Border Patrol agents willingly, not fearful, but relieved.
This crisis is unrelenting, and it’s happening even in broad daylight. Between those who ultimately are granted asylum and those who skip their court dates, more than half of migrants who arrive ultimately stay, which incentivizes other migrants to try for themselves.
When migrants turn themselves into U.S. custody, they’re transferred to Border Patrol processing centers where they’re given initial medical screenings to check for communicable diseases such as flu, scabies, lice or more severe diseases. After witnessing the enormity of what DHS is dealing with, you can’t help but be proud of the work being done to treat people who have put themselves through dangerous circumstances. The medical care is a significant improvement from the start of this crisis and improves every day.
The recent surge of illegal immigration is overwhelming our resources, overcrowding facilities designed for short-term processing. With limited space available in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Health and Human Services (HHS) facilities operating near or over capacity, migrants are waiting longer in Customs and Border Protection processing centers before moving to facilities designed for longer-term stays while waiting for their cases to be adjudicated. Most migrants are able to leave processing facilities within 72 hours, but processing is being delayed for many single adults arriving at the border alone.
There’s an easy solution. We could pass legislation tomorrow to expand the number of ICE and HHS beds available, immediately reducing the number of migrants waiting in processing facilities and ending catch and release; however, Democrats still refuse to take this action.
Border Patrol personnel repeatedly urged us to address two of the root causes of this humanitarian crisis: the Flores Settlement and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA). The Flores Settlement prevents children from being held in custody for more than 20 days and the TVPRA requires that migrants coming from Northern Triangle countries — the origin of most migrants who cross our border — cannot immediately be returned to their countries. Worse, cartels exploit TVPRA to enable human trafficking and hold migrants unable to pay for their trip in stash houses to perform forced labor or prostitution as restitution.
Other members of Congress have recently made disparaging comments after visiting these facilities. How could we come away with starkly different views about the adequacy of migrant care?
The answer is simple. Many of those who criticize our detention facilities aren’t seeking to improve treatment conditions — they’re seeking to end detentions and promote a policy of open borders. On our visit, we saw Border Patrol agents providing quality care to migrants in their custody, including unaccompanied children who survived the dangerous journey from Central America to our border. These law enforcement officers are good people doing a hard job.
The recent supplemental funding bill passed by Congress provides critical resources for the humanitarian effort on the southern border, but none of these resources will matter if we do not enforce our immigration laws and keep our country secure. This visit was extremely beneficial to all of us and reaffirmed our support for President Trump’s mission to secure our border and change our immigration laws in order to end this humanitarian crisis.