WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar says he learns more about border policy from the Mexican government than he does the Biden Administration.
The Laredo Democrat’s criticism of the White House’s approach to border security and immigration was voiced in a keynote address he gave at the Mexico Institute’s 7th Annual Building a Competitive U.S.-Mexico Border Conference.
In a Q&A following his remarks, Andrew I. Rudman, director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, asked Cuellar what metrics the Biden Administration has put in place to reopen the U.S.-Mexico border to so-called “non-essential” travel.
Cuellar, pictured above, responded that he and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, added language to an appropriations bill last December that dealt with ways to reopen the border. However, he said the Biden Administration is not taking any notice.
“We exactly asked them, hey, tell us your metrics, be more transparent, tell us how you are going to open up the border. Right now we are working in a void. Nobody understands what they (the Biden Administration) are doing,” Cuellar said.
“They don’t listen to people at the border. I am not talking about myself. I am talking about the businessmen, the county judges, the sheriffs, the mayors, the folks and the businesses at the border. So, there is no… as you mentioned… the key is, there are no metrics.”
Cuellar said border communities would like to know when land ports of entries are going to reopen to Mexican visa holders. He pointed out that before the coronavirus pandemic, 18 million Mexicans crossed the border each year, spending $19 billion in the United States.
“We are just at a whim of the administration and I just wish the administration would understand this. And every time I have talked to the secretary I have told him. With all due respect they give me answers that do not really make sense,” Cuellar said.
The secretary Cuellar was referring to was Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Cuellar is slated to meet Mayorkas in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, Aug. 12.
“I will be with them on Thursday and I will talk to him again and see what he says. I think I get more information, quite honestly, from the Mexican government,” Cuellar said.
“I fill my What’s App with the highest official there, Marcelo Ebrard, and we communicate with each other. I think I get more information from the Mexicans than the Americans, which shows you that there is a lack of transparency, a lack of metrics with this administration when it comes to border crossings.”
Marcelo Ebrard is Mexico’s foreign secretary.
Cuellar said there is no reason the the U.S.-Mexico border should still be blocked to Mexican visa holders. It was closed in March 2020 to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Cuellar said when he speaks to the Department of Homeland Security about the bridges remaining closed, they blame the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). He said when he speaks to CDC, they blame DHS.
“I always say, this is the United States of America. We have got to find a way,” Cuellar said.
The Biden Administration’s border security polices are riddled with contradictions, Cuellar said.
“There are a lot of contradictions. Undocumented aliens are able to come in, regardless of the health issues that are brought up. But when we talk about the legal visa holders that the Mexicans are, they can’t come in through land. So that is one contradiction,” Cuellar said.
“And, of course, the other contradiction is that they can fly in. So if you are in Monterrey, if you want to come through Laredo you cannot do it through the land bridge but if you get on a plane you can fly in to San Antonio or Houston. So, there are different contradictions and this is something I have told the administration, they need to fix that.”
Cuellar said he does not believe the Biden Administration understands the dynamics of the border economy.
“I don’t think the administration understands, the economic impact to our businesses. In Laredo, for example, some businesses depend 40, 50 percent or higher on Mexican shoppers. Before the pandemic, over $19 billion was spent in the U.S. People don’t understand just how much our businesses have been devastated. Washington doesn’t understand this. It is not only the small business owners. Think about all those employees that used to work for them,” Cuellar said.
“It is not only them. Think about the family members. You cannot see family members, as you know, on the border you have primos and primas on both sides of the border. They have not seen each other for a long time. I wish the administration would understand it.”
Cuellar said that when President Trump was in office he was working on plan to reopen land ports of entry to Mexican visa holders.
“I had a way in which we could open it up under Trump. I had worked with Mark Morgan, I had worked with Secretary Wolf, but then after the president lost the election in November it kind of all went away. Hopefully the Biden Administration will understand why it is so important,” Cuellar said.
Chad Wolf was acting Homeland Security secretary under Trump. Mark Morgan was CBP commissioner under Trump.
“Secretary Wolf and especially CBP Commissioner Morgan, we got it. They got it and we developed a plan to have a phase in. It was going to happen but President Trump lost the election and everything changed after that. They were moving forward with that.”
Cuellar noted that the Canadian government has said it is ready to reopen its border to U.S. residents. “I hope we do it at the same time with the Mexican border,” Cuellar said.
Editor’s Note: Here are Congressman Cuellar’s remarks at the Mexico Institute conference:
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