9 months ago

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.”

‘I’m infuriated’

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.

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

32 mins ago

COVID-19 restrictions unfairly choke small business

When Mark and Susan Anderson were required by a statewide mandate to close the doors of their Dothan clothing and outdoor gear store, Eagle Eye Outfitters, they felt like it was a necessary sacrifice for the good of public health. By limiting retail shopping to essential items such as groceries, prescriptions, and fuel, the governor’s order takes a great many people off the streets.

Hopefully, it slows the spread of the rampant COVID-19 virus. But the closure is incredibly painful for owners like them: it has forced them to furlough more than 150 employees, and the massive loss of revenue will leave a mark on their business for years.

What the Andersons don’t understand was how it is fair for one of their local competitors, the national chain Academy Sports and Outdoors, to continue selling the same types of apparel and outdoor gear.

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In this case, the loophole for Academy is their small firearms counter. Guns and ammunition are considered essential under the current order. Therefore, Academy and others who carry firearms have been allowed to continue to do business — even if guns and ammunition are only a small percentage of their overall sales.

One of the unintended consequences of the mandate is that small businesses, which often specialize in a more narrow range of merchandise, are penalized more heavily than their national chain competitors.

You heard that right: businesses owned and operated by Alabamians are absorbing the crushing cost of total closure, while national chains based out of state continue to snatch up what little retail demand still exists in the downturn.

If all businesses operating in Alabama were restricted from selling non-essential goods, small businesses might at least expect to benefit from the pent-up economic demand that will exist once the mandate is lifted. As it is, demand for those goods and services is funneled immediately to the big chains, cutting small business owners out of the deal entirely.

Bob Couch of Couch’s Jewelers feels that his small business is paying a higher price than others, as well. While he is forced to shutter his 75-year-old family jewelry store in downtown Anniston, Wal-Mart is allowed to continue selling jewelry just a short distance away. Because they carry groceries and have a pharmacy, they are allowed to sell anything.

None of the small business owners I spoke with this week felt the retail sales restrictions were unnecessary, given the scope and seriousness of the pandemic. But they think the state government has picked winners and losers with a poorly-conceived order.

They are right. And the governor can correct it today if she chooses.

Vermont heard a similar outcry from its small business community. In response, it amended its closure order so that businesses that remain open to offer essentials are limited to just those sales. In a large department store that offers a variety of goods, selling non-essentials is temporarily prohibited. No more going to Wal-Mart for groceries, but then wandering the aisles looking for a pair of gold earrings or a sleeping bag.

These are trying times for businesses of every size. But there’s no good reason for our own state government to damage Alabama’s small business owners further.

None of us likes the loss of civil liberties, or the freedom to do business as we choose — not even for a day. But if our current public health concerns are so extraordinary as to require such restrictions, the least government can do is ensure that they be equally and fairly applied. Every business operating in this state — big box or main street — should bear its share of the burden.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute; reach her on Twitter at @dhmccain.

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

2 hours ago

Alabama community colleges donate medical supplies to those fighting COVID-19

Community colleges across Alabama, many of which house nursing programs, are donating their medical equipment to those on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

According to a release from the Alabama Community College System (ACCS), many campuses across Alabama have equipment for their “simulated healthcare settings” where students train for medical careers.

“We are grateful for the daily sacrifice of Alabama’s healthcare providers and are grateful we can do our part to help serve our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jimmy Baker, chancellor of the ACCS.

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The equipment donated includes much sought-after ventilators that can help treat the most serious coronavirus cases.

The community colleges also handed out their supply of Personal Protective Equipment like masks to cover the face to local hospitals.

“Much like our efforts to meet the needs of every student that crosses our paths, our colleges work every day to help meet the needs of the communities they serve,” added Baker.

“On behalf of the Alabama Department of Public Health, I am grateful for the willingness of the Alabama Community College System to grant the urgent request for the loan of their available ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented State Health Officer Scott Harris.

“We are continually encouraged by the number of entities across the state that are rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the citizens of Alabama,” Harris concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Aderholt: Implement ‘Buy America’ policies to secure medical, pharmaceutical supply chains

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday is set to send a letter to President Donald Trump advocating for additional “Buy America” requirements as the nation deals with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aderholt is known nationally as a staunch supporter of Trump’s “America First” trade agenda, especially when it comes to manufacturing. The congressman previously stated, “This president has stood up more for manufacturing jobs in Alabama and across the country — not just Alabama — than any president.”

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape American life, Aderholt is urging the president to use his full authority under existing law to strengthen Buy America policies when it comes to the manufacturing of medical supplies and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Aderholt’s letter to Trump as follows:

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I appreciate the work your administration has done to address the health security threat posed by the COVID-19 virus. This global pandemic has highlighted the risk Americans face from an overreliance on imported products in securing public health.

This virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread across the globe with over 1.4 million cases confirmed according to Johns Hopkins University. With China producing significant quantities of the world’s medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, this centralization of global supply imposes significant health security risks should U.S. access be threatened or interrupted. Through China’s actions to hide the severity of the outbreak in their country, it is clear that they do not take their responsibility to international partners seriously.

While it is important to support our international allies in confronting this pandemic, we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States. In order to assure an uninterrupted supply, it is critical to encourage the development of enough domestic capacity to avoid placing the lives of Americans in the hands of foreign suppliers.”

Buy America policies create demand for domestically produced goods, helping to sustain and grow domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs it supports without additional spending. Americans expect that their taxpayer dollars will be used to purchase high-quality products produced in America by American workers and the businesses that employ them, not help China grow its domestic industry while enabling the collapse of U.S. manufacturing.

I encourage the use of existing authority to implement additional Buy America requirements for federal procurement of medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, helping use taxpayer- financed purchases to rebuild our public health industrial base in support of our national security.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

AlabamaWorks surveying businesses on workforce impacts of COVID-19

AlabamaWorks on Wednesday announced a new way for Yellowhammer State businesses to report how they continue to be affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Alabama COVID-19 Workforce Response Survey is designed to help policymakers fully understand the impact of this pandemic on the state’s workforce, as well as provide a clear path forward for businesses, industry and state government when determining the future focus of workforce in the state.

Responses to the survey will be accepted through Tuesday, April 21 at 5:00 p.m. CT. All Alabama businesses are highly encouraged to participate as the responses will help to protect the state’s workforce, manage the impact of COVID-19 and guide allocation of various resources.

“I am grateful to the Alabama Workforce Council for developing and deploying this much needed and user-friendly survey,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

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“As we work together to combat COVID-19’s impact, this tool will allow us to identify the needs of business and industry, resources that can help them and how we can best support Alabama’s businesses owners and hardworking Alabamians and their families,” the governor added.

The official survey can be completed here.

“While these are challenging times, we fully understand that now, more than ever, business and industry leaders must continue to work together with Governor Ivey’s administration and various state agencies to move us all forward together,” stated Alabama Workforce Council Chairman Tim McCartney. “Rest assured there is an unwavering commitment to do everything we can to minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on our businesses, our economy, the state and all of its citizens. Using the results from this survey, I know we can all make a difference in combating the challenges from this pandemic facing so many throughout Alabama.”

You can up with the latest coronavirus-related information from AlabamaWorks here.

RELATED: State of Alabama launches online coronavirus response hub — ‘We are all in this together’

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Price of gas plummets as Alabamians stay home

Prices for a gallon of gasoline across Alabama have plummeted amid a glut of supply from overseas coupled with a lack of customers due to coronavirus precautions.

According to data collected by AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded in Alabama was $1.689 on Wednesday, the lowest since 2016, and one of the lowest prices for the state in the last 15 years.

United States consumers went through 6,659,000 barrels of gas per day during the week ending March 27, a 37% decrease from the same week one year earlier and the lowest weekly number since the 1990s.

That number is expected to fall further, as more states have enacted “shelter-in-place” and “stay-at-home” orders since the most recent data was tabulated.

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J. Bart Fletcher, head of the Petroleum & Convenience Marketers of Alabama, an industry group, told Yellowhammer News over the phone that he has had many conversations with the convenience store owners that comprise his organization.

“I’m hearing anywhere from 20-40% drop in retail volume across the state,” he said when asked about how the coronavirus precautions were affecting sales.

According to Fletcher, rural stations are seeing less of a dropoff in sales than urban stores.

In addition to the drop in travelers caused by coronavirus precautions, oil prices have been subjected to a feud between Russia and Saudia Arabia, two of the largest oil-producing countries.

Saudia Arabia, in early March, reduced the prices of its crude oil output in an attempt to undercut Russian prices and gain dominance on the international market.

Russia, unfazed, proceeded apace with their oil production, resulting in an increased drop in prices for most customers around the world.

A meeting to potentially end the feud was postponed late last week.

“The issues we’ve seen with Saudi Arabia and Russia … is really the primary reason for the lowering of the retail gasoline prices,” Fletcher told Yellowhammer.

“Like any other product, the wholesale price determines what the retail price will be,” he added.

Fletcher said the convenience stores across Alabama are worried about “maintaining an adequate supply of employees,” which he says is a challenge faced by retailers across the state.

“My members are installing plexiglass between their retail clerks and their customers,” said Fletcher when asked how stores are adapting to these times of crisis.

Fletcher promised that his members will stay open and ready to serve across the state “so that people can keep on with their lives to the best degree possible.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.