LARAMIE — U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo, visited Laramie Wednesday to offer praise and encouragement to the students and faculty of Slade Elementary for their Blue Ribbon achievement — a program that recognizes public and private K-12 schools and their academic excellence.
Following that presentation, Barrasso commented on more politically pressing issues regarding immigration and his recent visit to the Donna processing facility in Texas.
“It’s heartbreaking and it’s overwhelming,” Barrasso said.
He and 17 other Republican senators traveled to the southern border to see firsthand the immigration crisis that has allegedly worsened under President Biden’s administration. Barrasso said he witnessed nearly 4,000 individuals, many minors and many keeping warm under insulation blankets.
Jesse Moreno, border patrol agent for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, confirmed in a brief phone conversation on Thursday that the Donna facility is built to accommodate approximately 1,000 — and under COVID restrictions, 250. As of Tuesday, it is currently accommodating 4,100.
“There are reasons that we have asylum laws,” Barrasso said, claiming many of the migrants currently seeking entry into the states aren’t for political or safety issues.
Barrasso said he spoke with several border patrol personnel and even observed a night patrol where he witnessed traffickers and smugglers on the other side of the river taunting border agents. He also claimed, per the patrol officers, the “Remain in Mexico” program was successful because they were forced to wait for adjudication outside the border.
However, the fact remains that approximately 9,700 migrants crossed the border in February, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, and average 500 unaccompanied migrant children under the Biden administration. Experts say these numbers will likely surpass those in 2019 during the same interval of time considering there are already 7.49-percent unaccompanied migrants as of 2021 year-to-date data compared to 8.25 percent in 2019.
“Those are the Biden numbers,” Barrasso said. He added that as a result, approximately one-third of patrol personnel perform patrol duty to keep out “traffickers and smugglers.”
“Two-thirds are now working as escorts or day care personnel,” Barrasso said for unaccompanied migrant children. Here lies the biggest problem, according to Barrasso.
“Our immigration system does need reform,” Barrasso said in a 2019 address to the Senate, and again Wednesday. But for Barrasso, reformation comes after security.
“The first thing we have to do is secure the border,” he said, “More are coming every day.”
As for reformation, the caseload is expanding exponentially and currently backlogged by over 1.3 million cases, according to data configured by TRAC, a non-partisan information site about U.S. federal immigration enforcement.
According to the Honorable Dana Leigh Marks, U.S. immigration judge in the Department of Justice, moving the immigration court systems outside of a law enforcement agency (Department of Justice) would help speed up immigration/asylum cases processes.
Barrasso responded to this fact by referring to a recent proposal introduced by Lindsey Graham which would end the abuse of the asylum system and establish refugee application and processing centers outside of the States. The legislation is known as the “Secure and Protect Act” of 2021 (S.1494).
Earlier this year, Wyoming State Senator Anthony Bouchard publicly announced his intentions to run against Representative Liz Cheney in the 2022 Republican primary.
When asked if he thought Bouchard had a reasonable chance running against Cheney, Barrasso said it’s too early to say.
“When I was re-elected in 2018, I had five others who ran against me who wanted to have me fired so they could have the job,” Barrasso said while laughing.
He added there are 14 months between now and election and a lot can happen during that time.
He said that in the meantime he is working diligently with Cheney and Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, on long-term income possibilities.
Currently the state is fighting President Biden’s oil and gas moratorium, which according to the University of Wyoming Enhanced Oil Recovery Institute, could cost the state nearly $12.9 billion in tax revenue.
“We have a delegation of three people … [and] we are working fully closely together on energy issues,” Barrasso said.