By: Scott Anderson of the Patch
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence saw the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that detained migrant adults faced at a U.S. detention center in McAllen, Texas.
His tour came in advance of ICE raids in select U.S. cities and amid a growing humanitarian crisis at the southern U.S. Border.
In comments following his tour, Pence called upon Congress to take action to begin alleviating the buildup of detained adults and families along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The McAllen station, where our cells are overflowing … ought to be a very clear message to every American that the time for action is now and the time for Congress to act to end the flow of families that are coming north from Central America to our border is now," Pence told CNN in an interview following his tour.
Wisconsin has eight members in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate who could potentially vote in favor or against reforms in the coming session.
Wisconsin Patch reached out to each Wisconsin representative to gauge their opinion on the current state of affairs. We requested opinions from each legislator at the same time on Monday, stating that our intent was to give each the space to share their view and allow readers to see where the commonalities and differences are in each response.
Here's what they said:
Senator Ron Johnson, Republican
"Since 2014 ... 1,086,000 people have come in as an unaccompanied child or, primarily, as a family unit and have been apprehended. 1,086,000 people – about half of those have come in the last nine months alone. So it's overwhelming our system, and the goal of our policy should be to reduce that flow. Turn it into a legal process. There's a number of things we can do. One of the things we have to do is raise that initial bar in terms of claiming asylum. Hopefully, set up centers in Guatemala, in Central America, so people can claim refugee status. But this is completely out of control.
"There was a survey done by the Association of Research and Social Studies in Guatemala that said that a third of Guatemalans intended to migrate to the United States — that's almost 6 million people. A Gallup poll showed 158 million people worldwide, 42 million people in Latin America, want to migrate to the United States. We can't take all comers. We have to have a legal system, primarily designed toward working with our economy to get people in here to work so we can continue to grow our economy. This is completely out of control.
"I'm working with Democrat colleagues on a pilot program called Operation Safe Return where we can rapidly and more accurately determine those families that clearly don't have a valid asylum claim, and the majority of them don't have a valid asylum claim, and safely return them to Central America. That will require some U.S. funding as well. There are also humanitarian organizations who are willing to facilitate that, but we have to have that consequence."
Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat
"The inhumane treatment of migrant children by the Trump administration is a disgrace. I joined my colleagues to introduce the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act because it's clear we must act to do more to promote the health and safety of migrant children seeking refuge in our country."
This week, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin helped introduce the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act to put an end to the Trump administration's cruel and neglectful treatment of children at the U.S.-Mexico border and reform how children fleeing persecution are treated between the moment at which they arrive at our borders to claim asylum and the ultimate resolution of their asylum case.
1st District Congress Bryan Steil, Republican
"There is a humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Law enforcement and our judicial system are overwhelmed by the sheer number of migrants attempting to come into our country. That is why I supported bipartisan legislation to provide $4.6 billion in humanitarian aid for the border.
"This funding will be used for housing, medical, and transportation needs at the border, as well as ensuring the government can process immigration cases and investigate human traffickers. We must now work to secure the border, support law enforcement, and address the root causes our broken immigration system. We must work together to prevent this from occurring in the future."
2nd District Congress, Mark Pocan, Democrat
No response submitted.
3rd District Congress, Ron Kind, Democrat
"Once again, the president fails to adhere to what they teach us in the bible and what serves as my moral compass: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The president needs to apologize and stop this behavior."
4th District Congress, Gwen Moore, Democrat
"The humanitarian crisis happening at our border is a byproduct of Trump's inhumane immigration policies. He created this crisis, but is driving a dangerous narrative that asylum seekers pose a threat to our nation. I visited the border over the weekend, and what I witnessed couldn't be further from the truth.
"What I found were men, women, and children packed into cages whose only crimes were seeking a better life. One of the facilities I visited was experiencing a meningitis outbreak, a disease that can be instantly deadly without proper medical care or vaccination. There is no doubt that the Trump Administration is using cruel and unusual policies to deter people from seeking the legal right to asylum."
5th District Congress. James Sensenbrenner, Republican
"Congress should have solved these problems 13 years ago by passing my immigration reform and border security bill. However, opponents in the Senate stalled the effort, and the festering issues at our southern border are now out of control.
"Record numbers of individuals are flooding into our country, caused in part by the Obama administration's failure to enforce our immigration laws as well as it's disastrous 'catch-and-release' policy. Make no mistake, these decisions sent a clear message: at the expense of those following the rules, we'll let you cut the line and come into America without any consequences.
"Now, rather than working with Republicans, Democrats refuse to take meaningful action addressing the root cause of the problem: a broken system and a porous border. We are a nation of laws, and the only pathway forward is for Congress is to enact reforms where needed, such as securing our southern border and increasing the number of judges to clear out the asylum backlog."
6th District Congress, Glenn Grothman, Republican
No response submitted.
7th District Congress, Sean Duffy, Republican
Congressman Duffy responded to Wisconsin Patch by referring us to a number of Tweets published on his official Twitter handle following our query. Below is the text of those tweets:
"The immigrants I know, including my mother-in-law, are the people most disgusted by Rep. Ilhan Omar's ingratitude to the nation who rescued her family from an African refugee camp and gave her the equivalent of a lottery ticket to come to the USA.
"Unbelievably, her public speeches are littered with statements like, 'I am ashamed of America's hypocrisy,' despite the fact that her story is proof of America's generosity, goodness and unparalleled opportunity.
"It is also a testament to the prosperity created by American capitalism — something Omar and others wish to destroy.
"Those we invite to our country are not learning much about our greatness once they get here. That's our fault. We must do a better job as a country and as parents of teaching civics and patriotism to our children.
"Our schools and universities are far too obsessed with America's shortcomings and are failing miserably at teaching our remarkable history of freedom, honoring our founding fathers, and passing on a love and respect for our exceptional country. That is sad and unsustainable."
8th District Congress, Mike Gallagher, Republican
No response submitted.