CHARLESTON, W.Va. — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and other lawmakers toured facilities on the U.S.-Mexico border last week to better understand border security efforts and the needs of officials.
Capito, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole visited Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, which are in the state’s Rio Grande Valley; according to Capito, 40% of immigrants who enter the country illegally come through that area.
“There are legal points of entry in and around those areas where people can come through every day, but then — particularly on the western portion of that Rio Grande Valley is where a lot of the illegals are picked up as they cross the border,” she said.
During an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline,” Capito described her trip, which included visits to detention and processing facilities, as well as meeting with Border Patrol agents to talk about drug trafficking.
One of the highlights Capito mentioned was visiting a Department of Health and Human Services facility where unaccompanied children stay after arriving in the country.
“The facility that I saw was for young girls who are under the age of 18 who come alone. Many of these young girls were either pregnant when they came, or they had young children,” the senator said.
Immigration detention centers faced criticism over the summer because of poor conditions, including overcrowdedness and unsanitary conditions, yet Capito said the facility she visited provided basic needs.
“They are not held there for very long because they are put into some kind of foster care families rather quickly,” she said. “I was satisfied with what I saw in terms of sanitary and the health conditions both there and at the adult facilities.”
Capito said the concerns surrounding immigration detention centers had to do with the number of people in such areas.
“Some of these facilities were just way overcrowded and overwhelmed,” she added.
Capito, the chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said the Trump administration is trying to deter people from entering the country, including sending people back to Mexico to wait for their court hearings.
“That is a protocol that the Mexican government has really stepped up to help us with, and that I think is part of the reason the flow has really decreased,” she said.
Capito’s visit came the same week the Defense Department announced it was haling $3.6 billion in military construction projects across the country to fund construction of President Donald Trump’s promised border wall.