Republicans on the House Oversight Committee are demanding answers from Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) following accusations that House Democrats have been involved in “coaching” migrants in Mexico on how to exploit U.S. immigration law.
Democrat staffers have taken a series of trips to Mexico in recent weeks, ostensibly to tour border detention facilities.
There were at least two committee staff trips into Mexico in August, ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote in a letter to Cummings, obtained by Fox News. According to Jordan, one of the trips “required Border Patrol agents to provide a special escort back into the U.S.”
“Although you have the authority to direct Committee staff to travel internationally on official committee business, you have not explained why you authorized this travel into Mexico or what you sought to learn through these trips,” Jordan wrote, adding that Republicans were not informed of the trips.
The Ohio congressman went on to accuse Democrats of seeking “to delegitimize the administration’s border security efforts and vilify the men and women who protect our border.”
Jordan said Republicans are concerned the trips “could continue to result in misleading information about the administration’s border security efforts.”
Specifically, Jordan highlighted a report that said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, was in attendance on one trip to Tijuana on Aug. 21. Escobar, who is not on the Oversight Committee, has been a vocal advocate of left-wing policies on illegal immigration.
According to the Washington Examiner, staff from Escobar’s office recently coached migrants in Ciudad Juarez on how to exploit federal immigration law — including telling would-be border crossers to pretend they cannot speak Spanish to exploit a loophole that would let them enter the U.S.
BREAKING: Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar (TX) is secretly sending staff into Mexico to coach asylum-seekers "to pretend they cannot speak Spanish to exploit a loophole letting them to return to the U.S."https://t.co/s0JjCW8OSK
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 5, 2019
“What we believe is happening is Veronica Escobar’s office is going … to basically second-guess and obstruct work already done by the Border Patrol,” a senior official with the National Border Patrol Council told the Examiner back in July.
The union official shared with the Examiner evidence of Escobar’s meddling provided by concerned U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Protection (CBP) managers and rank-and-file members. According to one CPB official, Escobar’s team had sought interviews with 6,000 people who were returned in June.
The union learned from a CPB intelligence unit that those doing the interviews were wearing recording devices “to tape conversations and possibly listen back later.”
“They went through and interviewed everybody, cherry-picked them, brought them back, and now are using them as tag lines. They’re going over there and manufacturing a lot of these issues,” said the union official.
Escobar responded to the Examiner article by calling it “fabricated” and “fueled by xenophobia and misinformation.”
Jordan asked Democrats “a number of questions including what the purpose of the visit was, which individuals and groups they interacted with, why Escobar’s office was invited, and what “coaching” on immigration laws, if any, was given to migrants,” Fox News reported.
Amid this controversy, Escobar led a delegation of 20 Democratic lawmakers on a two-day visit to both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border in early August.
Fox News reported late last month that the Department of Homeland Security had barred staffers from the Oversight committee from visiting CPB facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border that week after staff were allegedly disruptive and refused to follow instructions.
DHS said that staff behavior had “interfered” with law enforcement operations, “including refusing to leave one site after their scheduled window, skipping some tours and being ‘rude’ to officers,” according to Fox.
Democrats suggested that the visit was cancelled because staff were learning too much damaging information from detainees about conditions on the ground. Cummings complained that his staff was blocked “after previous staff inspections revealed potentially serious ongoing problems with the treatment of children and adults in DHS custody.”
Rep. Escobar is married to a federal immigration judge who is reportedly “beloved by many” migrants. Michael Pleters “grants bonds to most detained people,” according to Immprint, “a publication by and for people affected by immigration detention.”