U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi joined a bipartisan group of nine lawmakers Sunday and Monday on a fact-finding tour of the Southern border in Texas amid a growing political divide over the nation's immigration policy.
The House delegation, all members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, met with local law enforcement, business leaders and humanitarian organizations, toured a migrant processing center, Border Patrol facility and took a Rio Grande boat tour.
Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who represents parts of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens and serves as vice chairman of the 58-member caucus, said he witnessed many families being exploited by drug cartels and coyotes who smuggle people across the border.
"There are people making a lot of money off this misery and trying to take advantage of the policies that have been in place," Suozzi said during a news conference Monday along the Rio Grande and Mexican border. "The federal government has failed to address this problem for 30 years … We can't just rely on our parties to do this. We need to get together as elected officials from across party lines to find common ground and find solutions."
The trip to comes as the U.S. has seen a major uptick in migrants, particularly unaccompanied minors, illegally entering the country during the first few months of the Biden administration.
Border crossings in March leapt to their highest mark in 15 years, as more than 171,000 migrants — a figure that's more than doubled since January — were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures.
"It is clear to all of us what we are seeing and witnessing on our southern border is a crisis," Republican Rep. Young Kim of California said Monday. "We are seeing the humanitarian crisis. We are seeing a public health crisis. We have a border security and national security crisis."
On Monday, the Biden administration announced an agreement with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras to temporarily boost its security forces.
Mexico will maintain a deployment of about 10,000 troops, while Guatemala will add 1,500 police and military personnel to its southern border and Honduras deployed 7,000 police and military to its border, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
GOP House and Senate members have made similar tours of the southern border in recent weeks where they blamed the migrant influx on the administration's immigration policies. Biden has characterized the recent increase as "cyclical."
During a conference call Monday with reporters, Suozzi called for an "Ellis Island solution" at the border. "The current system is unacceptable," Suozzi said. "It's not working and we need to be better."