MCALLEN, Texas -- Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has wrapped up a three-day visit to several holding facilities for migrants on the southern border.
Ernst says there is no doubt there's a crisis at the border. She goes on to say facilities are overcapacity and backlogs in asylum processing are skyrocketing. Ernst also met with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials who told her they can't keep up with the influx of people crossing the border.
“U.S. CBP is doing just a phenomenal job with what they are given and what they've been handed. There really is a humanitarian crisis here on the border and we have to acknowledge that and step up and provide solutions for CBP, and unfortunately we're getting pushback from across the aisle on what we can do and what we should be doing with these migrants,” said Ernst.
Ernst says CBP officials told her it costs $20 million a month to rent one of the holding facilities in Texas. One of the private companies contracting with U.S. government to operate those facilities is the GEO Group. The company was the focus of a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report released earlier this year that cited spoiled food and moldy bathrooms at its facilities as well as segregation practices that prohibited visits with family members. In 2014 GEO Group contributed nearly $500,000 to various candidates. Ernst was one of GEO Group's top recipients, receiving $10,000 for her Senate race.
Ernst's Iowa communications director Brendan Conley said, "At no point during her trip to the southern border did Senator Ernst visit any facilities operated by the GEO Group. She visited the Hidalgo Port of Entry, which is run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Senator Ernst took part in this official trip to get a firsthand perspective of the situation at the border and to receive a briefing from CBP officials on the ground."