MISSION, Texas – While Congressman Henry Cuellar agrees with an additional 30-day extension of restrictions for non-essential travelers crossing the U.S. and Mexico border, he does not support President Trump’s decision to temporarily bar new immigrants.

Trump said Tuesday that his administration would temporarily bar new immigrants, including some family members of U.S. citizens and foreign workers looking to move to the U.S., in the next 60 days under a new executive order.

He said the immigration suspension is designed to reduce immigration at a time when tens of millions of Americans have lost jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

On the additional 30-day extension of restrictions for non-essential travelers across the U.S. and Canadian border and the U.S.-Mexico border, Cuellar said:

“As a member of the Bipartisan White House Task Force, I support the decision to extend restrictions for non-essential travelers across our borders, as it will help slow the spread of coronavirus and assist in preparing the country for a phased reopening.

“This 30-day extension is one that will ultimately protect people on both sides of the US-Mexico border.”

Cuellar said he would like to thank the men and women of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “Their service to our country and its borders protect our communities every day during this difficult time.”

On President Trump’s executive order on immigration, Cuellar said: “While the order is limited in scope, President Trump’s transparent attempt to distract from this crisis with this unwarranted suspension will cause real pain for families and employers across the country.”

Cuellar said it is “unacceptable to scapegoat immigrants” for the coronavirus pandemic while many of them are serving on the front lines as doctors, nurses, farm workers and other essential personnel.

“Fulfilling his campaign promise will not solve this public health and economic crisis,” Cuellar said. “The first impulse and the last impulse can’t always just be: Stop immigration to prevent a public-health disaster that is already here within our borders.”

Cuellar pointed out that the executive order, which took effect Thursday, will not apply to immigrants who already are living and working in the United States and are seeking to become legal permanent residents.

He said medical professionals, farmworkers and others who enter on temporary “nonimmigrant” visas are also unaffected, and the suspension also exempts the spouses and underage children of U.S. citizens, among other carve-outs.

However, Cuellar said the order will put a halt on employment-based immigration visas as well as the family-based categories for parents and siblings, which the president has often derided as “chain migration.

He said the measure also freezes the Diversity Visa Lottery, another frequent Trump target, which issues about 50,000 green cards annually.

Legal permanent residents who are trying to bring their spouses and children into the country also will be unable to do so, Cuellar pointed out.

Trump has said his restrictions could be extended far longer than 60 days if he believes the U.S. economy could not absorb more immigrants.

Southwest Border Regional Commission

Meanwhile, Cuellar and U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico have sent a letter to the House leadership calling for federal funding of the Southwest Border Regional Commission (SBRC) in any subsequent COVID package. 

They said the full authorized amount of $33 million will provide economic stability and relief to constituents by funding infrastructure projects and creating jobs in Southwest border communities.

“The Southwest Border Regional Commission was created to address the economic challenges faced by communities along the border. However, the Commission lacks the necessary federal funding to address these challenges,” Cuellar said.

“For this reason, we are urging House leadership to fund the SBRC in the next COVID-19 stimulus package so we can build critical infrastructure, expand our workforce, and strengthen our communities during these challenging times.”

Rep. Torres said: “Our vibrant border community is critical to economic health in southern New Mexico. While day-to-day life has changed overnight, many families and local businesses are working hard to adapt. The Southwest Border Regional Commission, previously authorized with bipartisan support, would help provide stability and relief in communities along the southern border. Today, I join my colleague Henry Cuellar in calling on leadership to include SBRC funding in the next COVID-19 package.”

The SBRC was created to address economic distress in the southern border regions of Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. One of seven authorized federal regional commissions and authorities, the SBRC is a congressionally chartered, federal-state partnership created to provide economic development in respective service areas. 

Although authorized in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-234), along with the Northern Border Regional Commission and the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission, the SBRC is the only one of these commissions to have never received a corresponding federal appropriation.

By law, the Commission would work for a total of 93 counties on the southwest border – Arizona (10 counties), California (7), New Mexico (11), and Texas (65). To see a map of the Southwest Border Regional Commission, click here.

Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of McAllen, and Arizona Reps. Ruben Gallego and Tom O’Halleran co-signed this letter. 

To read Reps. Cuellar and Torres Small’s letter to House leadership, click here.