Border Democrat Henry Cuellar warns Biden about immigrant fallout

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Stef W. Kight
·2 min read
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A Democratic lawmaker representing a border district warned the Biden administration against easing up too much on unauthorized immigrants, citing their impact on his constituents, local hospitals and their potential to spread the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told Axios he supports President Biden. But the moderate said he sees the downsides of efforts to placate pro-immigrant groups, an effort that threatens to blow up on the administration.

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  • "You just can't say, 'Yeah, yeah, let everybody in' — because then we're affected down there at the border," Cuellar told Axios on Saturday.

The big picture: Border crossings are rising. Hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley area are already busy. The Border Patrol has less capacity than normal.

  • Cuellar hopes the administration continues using a Trump-era public health order to quickly expel migrant adults and families, at least during the pandemic. Activists have called for Biden to end the use of the policy, called Title 42.

  • He said smugglers will likely use the shift in immigration tactics from the Trump to the Biden administration to convince migrants to come to the U.S. "The bad guys know how to market this," Cuellar said.

  • Some immigrants are being allowed into the country without getting a COVID-19 test first — a concern for some non-governmental organizations caring for them, Cuellar said.

  • He complained about a contradiction between releasing some unauthorized immigrants into border communities while keeping legal, cross-border travel closed. Many local businesses depend on Mexican shoppers for 50% to 75% of their sales, he said.

Cuellar is not the first Texas Democrat to warn the Biden administration of the impact of growing numbers of immigrants on border communities.

  • Facing the weather emergency in Texas, Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano targeted the president in a video this month: "I am pleading and requesting with you to please put a halt to any measures regarding the release of immigrants."

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