EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Democratic U.S. Reps. Judy Chu of California and Madeleine Dean of Pennsylvania left greatly troubled the last time they visited El Paso.
Chu recalls walking through a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Tornillo, Texas, in 2018 where children huddled in cold, cramped, unsanitary quarters not knowing how long they would be in custody. Dean just summarizes what she saw back then as “grievous and troubling.”
On Friday, the two made their first trip to El Paso since President Donald Trump left office and said they found a much different scenario when it comes to how migrants are being treated at the border.
“I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw today: cells spread out, the temperature was a tolerable 70 degrees and (CBP) showed us their supplies of food and clothes. It looks like they are treated well,” said Chu. “They even implemented separate (quarters) for LGBT and trans people.”
Dean said she saw public servants and faith communities working together to ensure the individuals on the move are safe.
“I saw incredible problem-solving with the issue of homelessness and addiction and the trafficking of fentanyl and other narcotics,” Dean said. And as far as the migrant situation today, “it’s good to see the truth. The truth is the numbers are far fewer than was predicted with the end of Title 42.”
Dean and Chu were part of a delegation of Democratic House members invited to tour the border by El Paso’s U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas.
“Our visits to communities in El Paso are different in that we talk to every partner involved in border work,” she said.
The Democrats visited the Paso del Norte port of entry and saw border officers process asylum applicants who arrived with appointments made through the CBP One app and drug-interdiction efforts at the border.
Escobar also addressed questions about her recently unveiled bipartisan border reform bill, which is being co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Florida.
Can the bill pass in a highly divided Congress with the start of the presidential campaign season a few months away?
“It is absolutely possible,” Escobar said. The Dignity Act of 2023 “is a compromise. Is it everything I want as a Democrat? No. Is it everything (Salazar) wants as a Republican? Absolutely not. (But) it is a compromise that expands legal pathways, which is a critical component to managing the border.”
Two voting GOP House members from New York and Oregon, and one non-voting delegate from Puerto Rico joined Salazar in support of the bill.
Escobar said all it takes is five Republicans and all 213 Democrats to bring the bill to a vote. “At the very least, it is a breakthrough in bipartisan conversations that is long overdue,” she said adding that “maintaining the status quo” of what most agree is a broken immigration system will continue to have consequences.
Other Democratic House members visiting El Paso on Friday included Sarah Jacobs of California, Andrea Salinas of Oregon and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin.