Bacon border trip

Reps. Jason Crow, D-Colo., and Don Bacon, R-Neb., overlook the border near El Paso. Bacon toured an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center and a shorter-term holding facility run by the Border Patrol. He said he was pleasantly surprised by the ICE facility and said people he met were generally happy.

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., returned from a trip to the Mexico border Thursday with a to-do list for Congress.

The Omaha-area representative said there is a crisis at the border of too many asylum seekers and people attempting to cross the border illegally.

“Congress is responsible,” he said. “We owe it to our country to compromise.”

He did not report the kinds of dire conditions that Democrats have reported at holding facilities.

Bacon wants to see Congress change the rules of asylum so that children can be detained. Now, he said, the government is releasing families with children because it is not allowed to hold children for more than 20 days. Bacon contended that people are abusing that system.

He also said he would like to see that 20-day rule rescinded, which the Trump administration moved to do last month.

Bacon also wants to see more funding for judges and clerks so that asylum hearings can be held faster, as quickly as two weeks after entry as opposed to several months. He also said he wants more money to be allocated for the Border Patrol.

Bacon said he agrees with President Donald Trump’s move to take $3.6 billion from the Pentagon budget to build a section of border wall. But, he said, Congress should have compromised on funding rather than leave it to the president to find funds.

Bacon found some areas for bipartisan compromise with fellow tour member Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo. The Democrat and Republican agreed on the need for faster hearings and that more Border Patrol agents and some other items are needed for security.

The tour involved two El Paso-area holding facilities: a Border Patrol facility where people generally are held for less than 24 hours, and an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility where people spend months awaiting an asylum hearing.

Of the latter, Bacon said he was pleasantly surprised at the accommodations and said people he met were generally happy.

When asked if he was OK with the conditions at the Border Patrol facility — where Bacon said people sleep on the floor — he said, “It is what it is.” He said the Border Patrol is stretched too thin.

Other House Democrats who have toured detention facilities at the border have said they’re “horrified” by conditions there. A group of 14 House Democrats raised concerns about poor living conditions at two Texas facilities after a July trip, including the same Border Patrol facility that Bacon visited.

“The current situation is abhorrent for migrants, especially children, and it’s overwhelming and straining communities as well as agents and officers,” tweeted Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.

The representatives cited crowding and parents distraught over not knowing where their children were taken. Some reported that women were told to drink out of toilet bowls when an attached faucet didn’t work. (Bacon said the Border Patrol agents disputed that.)

Kara Eastman, who is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Bacon, visited the border last month. She toured shelters in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

She said the Mexican shelter where people were waiting for asylum or immigration hearings did not have enough resources, including food.

“We should view the border between the U.S. and Mexico the way we once looked at Ellis Island,” she wrote in a post about her trip.

Other local lawmakers who toured the border during the August recess include GOP Reps. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska and Steve King of Iowa; and Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican.

At a town hall meeting, Fortenberry praised Border Patrol agents as hard workers.

“This has a lot of complexities,” he said. “It has a real human face.”

Ernst said she toured a holding facility, a processing facility and a port of entry in the Rio Grande Valley sector of the border near McAllen, Texas.

“We were given complete access in every facility. In every location we found shelves full of food, water, clothing and hygiene products,” she said in a statement. “The facilities also had air conditioning, medical care, showers, washers and dryers, and phones for migrants to use.”

King went a step further in rebutting the Democrats’ criticisms of border facilities. He said he drank out of a water fountain attached to a toilet where the migrant women were being held.

The water came from an attached sink and was “actually pretty good,” he said, adding, “I smacked my lips.”

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