Roe calls for more beds, judges at the border

Robert Houk • Jul 11, 2019 at 10:13 PM

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, said Thursday that his recent trip to immigration processing centers on the southern border has convinced him there is a need for more detention beds, more immigration judges and major changes to the nation’s immigration laws.

“It really frustrates me,” said Roe, who was among six Republican physicians in Congress who toured U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in Texas last month. “We should get our laws in order to protect the people who make these hard journeys to get here.”

He said Congress “should do its job” and address the legal issues involving the so-called Flores agreement, a 1997 court ruling that limits the length of time and conditions which U.S. officials can hold immigrant children. The Trump administration has sought to detain children with their parents in ICE facilities, as opposed to the conditions required by the Flores settlement.

“We need a comprehensive immigration bill,” Roe said. “This whole crisis has become a political tool, and it shouldn’t be.”

The Republican lawmaker blamed Democrats in the House of Representatives for much of the politicization.

The congressman also referred to a rally to be held in Johnson City’s Founders Park tonight to call attention to President Trump’s immigration policies and the treatment of detainees at the border processing centers. He asked reporters where was the outrage in 2014 when there were similar conditions at the border under President Barack Obama.

Roe said he and the other military-trained members of the GOP doctors caucus were able “to see things differently” at the border. That included children suffering from the flu and other serious illnesses being separated from their families.

He said it is costing as much as $20 million a month to operate some of the processing centers. 

“(Federal agents) are doing the best they can,” he said.

Roe said some of the immigrants in the detention centers are “not coming from very good circumstances.” Once they have arrived to this country, he said they “are going to get health care, clean clothes and food.”

The Johnson City congressman said more than 50,000 immigrants crossed the border at McAllen, Texas, in May, overwhelming federal processing centers and taking U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents away from their law enforcement duties. He told reporters on a conference call that “60 percent of what they do now is humanitarian.”

Roe said this has allowed drug and human traffickers to get through the border.

He said Congress should “immediately appropriate more money” for ICE detention beds at the border. He also said more immigration judges are needed to hear refugee cases, and those who have had their requests for asylum rejected by the courts “should be deported.”

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