Roe: Southern border is open for families

Hank Hayes • Jul 11, 2019 at 5:45 PM

U.S. Rep Phil Roe said Thursday that the U.S. has open borders if an accompanied family shows up.

“If you’re a single male, (it’s a) little different. If you’re a single female, you’re treated a little differently, but a family unit or unaccompanied minor is going to get into the country,” Roe, R-Tenn., said in a conference call with reporters.

Roe, co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, recently visited the southern border with caucus members to see how illegal immigrants are processed and to assess medical conditions.

“The doctors probably see things differently than other (House) members because most all of the doctors caucus are ex-military,” Roe said. “We’re trained to do many of the things we saw the Customs and Border Patrol people do. Our laws are a magnet for people, for families and unaccompanied children to come to the United States. They have apprehended at the southern border people from over 50 countries, some of them are not so good like Yemen or Syria. .... In the early 2000s, 90 to 95 percent of the people were young Hispanic men mostly from Mexico who came to the United States looking for work.”

Roe noted that because of the Flores settlement rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1997, the U.S. has not been able to hold or detain children under 18 longer than 20 days. In 2014, Roe added, the court ruled the U.S. cannot detain a family unit. “They are given a court data, (but) almost 90 percent of the people never show up for their court date,” Roe pointed out.

Families, Roe said, generally pay someone $4,000-$8,000 to get them to the border.

Roe said that in total, the emergency supplemental passed by Congress provided $4.59 billion to address the humanitarian crisis at the border. This included nearly $2.9 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to provide appropriate shelter and care for unaccompanied children. 

“As of March 31st, there was a backlog of over 876,000 pending immigration court cases, and this backlog is growing,” Roe stressed in a column sent to the Times News.

Roe said Congress should appropriate more money to expand the number of detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Roe said, also needs more resources.

“These are police officers,” Roe insisted. “They’re not day care center people. They are trained police officers. And now, 60 percent of what they do is humanitarian aid. It’s not policing the border.”

Roe addressed these questions:

Is there any room for volunteer medical people from East Tennessee to go and help out?

“We just had Central Baptist Church in Johnson City ... on the trip. ... Several other people went down there and they’ve seen about a 100 people a day or more.”

If it costs $20 million a month to run a processing center, is there any way to put a price tag on all of this?

“By law you have to provide certain things: clean water, food, bedding, all that, medical care. It’s not inexpensive. ... No other country could process people as humanely as we are.”

Do you see any chance of comprehensive legislation being passed?

“The only way under the current setup we have with a divided Congress, if there is a bill that comes from the Senate and is passed overwhelmingly bipartisan. ... We are in the minority, but more Republicans voted for that humanitarian aid package than Democrats.”