Cruz prompts Senate Committee border hearings, suggests McAllen mayor attend

Sen. Ted Cruz sent letters this week to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary urging them to convene hearings that require testimony from top government officials over the situation at the border, and asked to include the McAllen mayor.

Two letters were sent Thursday and Friday addressed to Sen. Dick Durbin, the committee’s chairman, and authored by Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Charles E. Grassley, Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, John Kennedy, Thom Tillis and Marsha Blackburn.

The senators are asking the committee to hold hearings where government officials responsible for border security and immigration, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz, are called to testify over the recent increase in border crossings.

On Friday, the second letter added Javier Villalobos, mayor of McAllen, to the list of speakers.

“The epicenter of this crisis is McAllen, Texas, a small city of about 145,000,” Cruz’ letter stated. “This story — the story of McAllen, Texas — should be included in any hearing on the crisis at the border, and there is no better person to tell that story than the Mayor of McAllen, Javier Villalobos.”

Cruz made some incorrect assertions about the number of migrants released in McAllen lately, however.

“The administration is releasing 1,800 illegal migrants per day at the McAllen bus station,” Cruz wrote, attributing the information to a New York Post story. That story linked to a video posted over a month ago by Mayor Villalobos where he said the city was receiving about 1,800 migrants a day.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the RGV who oversees the migrant releases in McAllen, said the number was incorrect on Friday. “Numbers have dropped off significantly,” she said via text message.

The total number of migrants released by Border Patrol varies greatly from day to day, according to records kept by the city of McAllen.

The Monitor obtained those records that show the totals from February through August. An upward trend is notable from April through August 2021. On August 1, the city saw the greatest number of migrants released this year with nearly 2,000 just that day. Since then, the numbers have decreased to about 650 on Aug. 17, the last date shared via the latest public information request.

The release of migrants is dependent on the level of border encounters.

In recent weeks, Border Patrol agents were largely assigned away from enforcement to processing duties to keep up with the number of migrants entering the country.

Cruz said during his visit to the Valley on Wednesday, “75% of the agents (in the RGV sector) were doing processing, hospital visits and bus trips.”

That number, too, was outdated, according to a Border Patrol spokesman.

“To effectively process and care for the number of detainees RGV has seen this year, adjustments to manpower allocations are made. At one point this summer, RGV assigned approximately 75% of all agents to processing duties. Currently, the percentage of agents assigned processing duties has decreased to approximately 50%,” a statement shared Thursday read.

At one point in late July, Border Patrol officials, outpaced by the number of migrants entering the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley, considered leaving some checkpoints unmanned to reassign more agents to processing duties and cut down on the time migrants spent in custody. The plan was never implemented but demonstrated the pressure the agency was facing at the time.

Cruz was critical of the decision to reassign agents away from enforcement duties, however.

“That means that the entire force — you look at these men and women who are tough, serious, law enforcement officers who were trained to encounter and deal with dangerous narcotics traffickers, dangerous human traffickers — they weren’t able to do that because they were changing diapers, they were filling out paperwork,” Cruz said Thursday.

His letters to the Senate Committee employed a similar tone of immediacy.

“I therefore urge you not only to hold a hearing on the crisis at the border, but to invite Mayor Villalobos to testify about how this crisis is affecting his and other border communities,” Cruz wrote. “It is long past time for Washington, D.C. to stop ignoring the plight of communities like McAllen, Texas, and to instead listen to them and their experiences.”