A group of congressional Democrats is back from a visit to border facilities a week after Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers returned from their own trip to the U.S. southern border with Mexico.
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., spoke exclusively to Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures about his trip to the border. Cardin said most of the people he saw in the border facilities were families and children.
“These are families that are very desperate,” he said. “They’re escaping danger in their host countries. In many cases, they were young children whose parents are concerned of their children’s safety.”
On the contrary, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told "Sunday Morning Futures" last week that he saw several men that had been there before. He said letting them go would be dangerous.
Despite this, Cardin said he believed the major issue related to the abundance of people seeking asylum in the United States.
“Asylum is a process that the United States has been a leader on that people that are in genuine fear of their lives should find a welcome mat for safety,” he said. “Instead the president has held these individuals under circumstances that should not exist.”
Cardin said it takes less than a day for immigration services to confirm migrant identities, therefore he believes they should be released pending their asylum hearings.
However, asylum hearings can be known to take up to a few years, especially when apprehensions are reaching all-time highs. Total apprehensions reached 144,278 in May and 104,344 in June, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
May’s apprehension number was the highest it has been for any month in several years.
Cardin said there are things both Democrats and Republicans can do to ease conditions on the border.
“First, we need to double down in helping the Central American countries with the problems in their own countries,” he said. “We need to deal with their safety for their citizens and their financial futures.”
Cardin said there is bipartisan support to increase American participation in these Central American economies. He also said the U.S. needs to start an immigration policy within those countries themselves.
He said a policy like this would allow people from countries such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to know whether they qualify for asylum before making the dangerous trek to the border.
Additionally, Cardin discussed the growing tensions between the U.S. and Iran and said tensions between the two countries “couldn’t be higher.”
He said his primary concern is that these “extremely dangerous situations,” such as the overtaking of vessels and downing of drones, could lead to a miscalculation that could cause military conflict.
“We don’t want to see open war with Iran. That’s not in our national security interest,” he said.
Cardin added that while the U.S. wants to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, it must be done in a safe way.
“We need to work with our European allies to find ways to calm down the situation.”