Government

Ernst calls for border security, permanent fix for asylum system

Sen. Joni Ernst walks past demonstrators protesting the detention of children at the Mexico/United States border after attending a ceremony at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, June 30, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Sen. Joni Ernst walks past demonstrators protesting the detention of children at the Mexico/United States border after attending a ceremony at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sunday, June 30, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — After a visit to the Texas-Mexico border, Sen. Joni Ernst is calling for increased border security and closing asylum loopholes in existing immigration law.

“I can tell you firsthand the humanitarian crisis is real,” said Ernst, who visited the border over the past weekend.

The $4.6 billion supplemental aid package Congress approved earlier this summer is helping, she said, “but the simple fact is that right now (Customs and Border Protection) is overwhelmed. Their facilities are at maximum capacity.”

However, a permanent solution is needed because the increase in the number of people — mostly from Central and South America — seeking asylum is straining the system, Ernst told reporters earlier this week.

“Providing care to migrants is a non-negotiable,” Ernst said, “but so is securing our border and permanently fixing the loopholes that exist in our current immigration system. I can say that open borders is not the answer.”

While the children and adults she met during her visit were well cared for, more facilities are needed.

“The migrants we talked to, they didn’t seem to be suffering any discomfort. They were happy to visit with us,” she said. “Most of them, when we asked why they are coming to the United States, most said they wanted better opportunity.

“They didn’t say they were being oppressed. It was more economic reasons.”

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Ernst would like to address the situation before the 2020 election, but said Democrats are dragging their feet. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham has delayed marking up legislation reforming the asylum system while waiting for Democrats to work with him.

“So far, they have continually put him off,” Ernst said. “It is to their benefit to do so, to continue with the crisis at the border.

“They are using these human beings, those migrants, as pawns. We can’t continue to do that.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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