Texas senators call for family unification, expedited court process on border

WESLACO, Texas – Texas’ Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn hosted a roundtable discussion of the on-going border crisis. The senators held the discussion in Weslaco and heard from a range of local, federal, religious and nonprofit leaders.

The discussion began with a warning from the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Chief Manuel Padilla Jr. said if Congress does not act then his sector is expected to surpass the more than 50,000 families and unaccompanied children caught illegally crossing this part of the border in 2014.

“If something is not done then we will have this same conversation next year, and the year after that, and the year after that,” said Padilla.

Both Cornyn and Cruz said they are pushing for legislation that mandates families stay together while speeding up the processing for those facing deportation or seeking asylum.  

"These children should not victims of a broken system," said Cornyn.

Cruz said his legislation calls for doubling the number of immigration judges and creating an expedited timeline to process cases for adults who were caught illegally crossing the border with children. Cruz said speeding up the timeline helps ensure the government does not run afoul of a 1997 legal settlement that mandates the government release minors from detention facilities promptly and places them in the “least restrictive” setting possible.

However, both said those caught illegally crossing the border must still be prosecuted.

"The wrong solution would be an outcome that mandates that everyone crossing illegally has to be released that would only encourage further illegal immigration," said Cruz.

Cornyn echoed that statement by saying criminal elements exploit “catch and release” programs.

“That's when people realize, and the cartels, traffickers realize they can beat the system,” said Cornyn.

When asked if Border Patrol was still adhering to a zero-tolerance policy, Padilla answered.

"Right now we're looking at what we're going to do, but whatever we do we're going to keep the families together," said Padilla.

Padilla said some 500 children have been reunited with their parents. Both Cruz and Cornyn toured two facilities housing children either separated from their parents or were unaccompanied. The senators said the children at these facilities “were being well cared for.”