WESLACO, Texas - Today a host of federal and state officials toured the Texas border and federal detention facilities as a wave of Central American immigrants continues to strain resources in the state.
Sen. Ted Cruz, Congressman Michael Burgess and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott toured a makeshift detention facility at Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio. Lackland has housed upwards of 1,000 Central American immigrant children who crossed the Texas border alone and illegally.
Lackland had to quickly transform into a detention center earlier this year because there is not enough space along the border to hold the now estimated 52,000 children who've crossed into the U.S. this year.
"The facilities are clean. they have been decorated, they are environments designed for children who've experienced trauma to give them some degree of comfort, reassurance and some degree of medical care," said Cruz.
Cruz, Burgess and Abbott said they heard tales of abuse and mutilation from the children whose lives were placed in the hands of smugglers to make the dangerous trek from Central America to Texas.
"These coyotes are not well-meaning social workers trying to care for these kids, these are hardened criminals, these are transnational global criminal cartels," said Cruz.
The Republican contingent also blamed President Barack Obama's administration for helping create this problem. Thousands of Central American adults and children have been flocking to the U.S. for several months.
"When the president of the United States prevents border patrol from following the law and enforcing the law, when the president announces it to the world, amnesty for those who broke the law, the consequence is people respond to that," said Cruz.
"The numbers are overwhelming and the people inside are hard-pressed to keep up with the demand that's being placed upon them," Burgess added.
Burgess said he was also concerned about communicable disease being brought into the U.S. by children and adults.
"I'm concerned these children are getting adequate screening for communicable diseases," said Burgess. "That's happening at the border and (at Lackland)."
Federal officials maintain amnesty programs, especially for trafficked children, have been misunderstood by Central American citizens. Federal officials spent the weekend trying to correct those misconceptions in foreign newspapers and newscasts.
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, had an editorial published in Spanish language news outlets titled, "An open letter to the parents of children crossing our Southwest border."
"The long journey is not only dangerous; there are no "permisos," "permits," or free passes at the end," the editorial read.
Federal officials add it is the violence in those countries prompting parents to send their children north, rather than have them face the wrath of violent gangs.
"We have seen the number of children taking the incredible risk entailed with coming across the border grow exponentially," said Cruz. "It has gone from 6,000 in 2011, to this year it's estimated to be 90,000 unaccompanied children."
Officials in Mexico have also now reported problems with Central American immigrants amassing in that country prior to heading toward the Texas border.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was both blunt and forceful with his words regarding the state's border with Mexico. He referred to the thousand of Central American immigrants caught crossing the border as both a security and humanitarian crisis.
"The border with Mexico is not secure. There are literally thousands of people a day coming into this country and it is unacceptable," said Perry.
Perry specifically spoke about a 316-mile stretch of our border that runs from Falcon Heights to the Gulf. Perry said federal border patrol agents and local law enforcement officers are being pulled away from the border to deal with an overwhelming number of Central American immigrants crossing into Texas illegally - many of whom are children.
"This isn't a Democrat problem, this isn't a Republican problem, this is an American problem," said Perry.
The head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Steve McCraw, said drug cartels are using an overwhelmed system to their advantage.
"They are exploiting this opportunity to also move criminal aliens, transnational gangs, drugs and contraband into Texas," said McCraw.
Perry said while Texas resources are being marshaled along the border for saturation patrols of hot spots, he also warned this issue will not subside unless the federal government also sends more resources.
"I'm telling you, in July and August if the message does not get out into those countries in Central America, you're going to see a trail of tears again, from Central America to Texas," said Perry. "There will be numbers of people who die en-route."
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