Byrne visits border, finds Dem allegations about ICE conduct ‘absolutely not based in fact’
Yellowhammer News on Monday evening spoke with Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) about his trip to the United States’ border with Mexico, with the congressman praising American law enforcement efforts while slamming Democratic and mainstream media portrayals of how asylum seekers are being treated.
Calling in from El Paso, TX, after a long day, Byrne shared what he saw and heard firsthand through meeting with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the border, touring a port of entry and visiting an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility.
Byrne stressed that recent claims by elected Democrats and some members of the mainstream media about the situation at the border were totally false based on his personal experiences and interactions on Monday.
The first part of Byrne’s day was spent with CBP agents just outside of El Paso, with the congressman getting to observe real demonstrations of how they apprehend illegal immigrants entering the country at the border, also learning how these individuals are then detained and housed.
Byrne was joined on the trip by two Democratic House colleagues. The coastal Alabama congressman had nothing but praise regarding his interactions with CBP agents and observations of their conduct during the visit.
“Everybody asked them the hard questions about, ‘Have you done this? Have you done that?’ Absolute, hard denials,” Byrne said.
However, they did not just have CBP’s word to rely on. Members of the American military were on hand to confirm CBP’s accounts.
“We also talked later on in the day with U.S. Army personnel that are working with [CBP], and our U.S. Army personnel verified everything that the [CBP] personnel were telling us,” he advised. “I think if there was a deviation the Army officers would have told us.”
During his visit to a port of entry in El Paso, Byrne explained that he was walked through the process of searching vehicles for unauthorized persons and contraband. However, he said he also learned of an unexpected reality that CBP agents have to contend with on a daily basis.
“[T]here is a group that has threatened to charge that port of entry,” Byrne told Yellowhammer News. “They (CBP) actually have a plan working with our Army personnel there [as to] how they can close that point of entry with physical barriers and literally have [CBP] agents on the front line and the Army personnel on the back line.”
After meeting separately with Army personnel about their role in stemming the border security crisis and how it is affecting military readiness, Byrne traveled to an ICE detention facility.
There, he spoke with asylum lawyers about the claim adjudication process before touring the facility, including its cafeteria, infirmary and women’s dormitory.
“The one takeaway I have from this is that the allegations against the governmental officials involved with the border by the mainstream media and far-left politicians are absolutely not based in fact,” Byrne emphasized. “And I’m infuriated by the unfounded accusations that have been made against them. They are doing everything they can to treat these people with the utmost care and the utmost kindness.”
He reflected on telling members of his group while walking during the day through the ICE detention facility that “it was a heck of a lot nicer than the penitentiaries in Alabama” that Byrne has toured.
Byrne said the sleeping quarters in the facility were air-conditioned, the food was more than adequate and detainees have access to televisions and even I-Pads.
“They are very well taken care of,” he added.
Byrne then explained to Yellowhammer News that he was calling from a nongovernmental organization (NGO) responsible for temporarily housing asylum seekers after they are released from ICE custody but before they are located with a sponsor family somewhere around the country.
“I’m sitting here right now in this room with a bunch of children that have been in detention and just been released,” Byrne said. “And they look like well-fed, healthy, normal children. None of these children have been abused — you can tell by looking at them.”
“So, all these stories we’re hearing are absolutely false,” he continued. “And they’ve been told to try to shore up a narrative that is aimed at nothing more than trying to discredit President Trump and nothing more than to try and open our borders completely and have no control at all. And I am infuriated about that, because members of Congress should never do that.”
While Byrne noted that his group was not allowed to speak with the asylum seekers being detained in the ICE facility during the tour, his observations of the detainees were more than enough.
“You can watch people [and tell],” he remarked.
“There were some people being held temporarily in the port of entry [holding facility], and we walked through there and saw them, and we saw the people at the healthcare facility in the ICE facility, and these people are being well taken care of,” Byrne outlined. “There’s just absolutely no question about it.”
“And if there was some abuse going on, I think our U.S. Army officers would have told us because I asked them point-blank,” Byrne added. “I said, ‘Are these people (CBP and ICE) as professional as they seem?’ And the Army officers said, ‘Absolutely, they are very professional. We enjoy working with them. They are doing the best job they can do.’ With the lack of resources they’ve had. Because the Democrats have not listened to the Trump administration about the need for more funding for border issues.”
‘The wall works’
Yellowhammer News then referenced a picture from the visit to the border that Byrne had posted to his congressional Twitter account earlier in the day, which shows a physical barrier that runs along the border.
I’m outside El Paso, TX with @CBP agents discussing their work protecting this community from criminals illegally crossing the border. Their progress wouldn’t be possible without a combination of a wall, boots on the ground and technology. I’m enjoying their valuable perspective! pic.twitter.com/Tzr3qIDNQm
— Rep. Bradley Byrne (@RepByrne) July 22, 2019
Byrne explained that CBP agents told him that barriers work in areas like El Paso, emphasizing that walls are more effective than fences in keeping illegal aliens and bad actors out.
“We all asked bunches of question about the wall, and they (CBP agents around El Paso) have a wall and in certain places they have a fence,” Byrne advised. “The fence is not as effective as the wall because the coyotes will come up with bolt cutters and cut open the fence. But the actual wall, the steel and concrete walls, they can’t do that. So, they (CBP) said that [the wall] has made their jobs easier, and it’s made both sides of the border far safer.”
“So clearly, at least in some places, the wall works,” Byrne reiterated. “We heard that over and over again.”
He has been a consistent supporter of President Donald Trump’s calls to build a wall where warranted along the U.S.-Mexico border. However, these efforts have been stifled by Democrats in Congress, like Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).
Byrne told Yellowhammer News that Democrats are so dug in against the wall mainly based on partisanship rather than public policy.
“I think for them it’s like a symbol — the president made a big deal out of it in his campaign. So, that made it a symbol for them. Anything they associate with President Trump, they’re against,” Byrne decried. “So, it’s part of their resistance to the president.”
Byrne shared that at one point during the visit, while traveling along the border between a CBP checkpoint and the port of entry, he and his group actually saw illegal aliens run across a section of the border that did not have a physical barrier.
“It is extremely difficult to keep people from crossing the border,” he noted. “They (CBP) can apprehend them [afterward], but it’s extremely difficult to stop them altogether [without a wall].”
‘They’re clearly gaming the system’
And, even after being apprehended, most individuals then apply for asylum and more often than not disappear into the United States without a trace because of a broken system.
“These people do not stay here in El Paso,” he advised. “In fact, I’m told by the man who operates the facility I’m sleeping in that within 96 hours, they are out of here. And they go to everywhere in the country [imaginable]. And we know they come to Alabama.”
“Some of them are completely innocent after they get here, hardworking people — I get all that,” Byrne stated. “But they’re all here illegally. And too many of them commit crimes.”
He referenced the 2018 death of Mobile’s Sonya Jones at the hands of an illegal alien who had skipped his asylum hearing altogether after being released from an initial detention facility.
“We were told that here in El Paso 76% of them don’t show up to their hearings,” Byrne detailed. “And 90% of them are not successful in their hearings. They’re clearly gaming the system. That’s to the detriment of everybody in America, and it’s to the detriment of everybody in Alabama.”
“We’ve got to make a significant change to the asylum law, the asylum legal process,” he added.
Byrne hopes this is an area where bipartisan consensus can be had, also remarking that the Democrats on the Monday trip with him agree on the need for increased funding for more staffing, equipment, facilities, technology and resources for CBP and ICE.
However, the sticking point of the wall remains. He said he reiterated this to the Democrats on the trip, just as he previously has to many of his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
“They tell me they would like to have a bipartisan agreement on immigration, and I’ve agreed with them that we need to do that,” Byrne told Yellowhammer News. “But I said we’re not going to get that without a wall. And I’m trying to impress upon them that there will be no deal without a wall.”
He said the belief in the need for the wall is much more widespread than just Trump, trickling down to rank-and-file Republicans — a fact Byrne believes Democrats still need to get their heads around. Yet, firsthand experience leave no doubt as to the factual necessity of a wall, he said.
“If you come here and you see it for yourself, it’s undeniable,” Byrne emphasized.
‘So proud … so impressed’
For now, though, law enforcement officials and military personnel at the border must do without.
Byrne, throughout the conversation, spoke glowingly of CBP’s job performance, especially being that they are understaffed and in dire need of more resources.
“I think they’re doing an outstanding job, both with the apprehensions and with what they do with these people once they apprehend them,” he stressed. “I’m just so impressed by the professionalism of the [CBP and ICE] agents, and I’m so proud of what the United States Army and the Army National Guard is doing here in partnership with them.”
“They’re doing the right things here with the resources that they’ve got and with the laws that they’ve got. We’ve just got to do a better job in Washington of supporting them by giving them better laws and more resources,” Byrne concluded.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn