Democratic Texas Representative Henry Cuellar has said that waves of migrants flooding the U.S. have been arriving because “they think that the border is open.”
“There’s a lot more coming into the United States,” Cuellar told reporters Monday. “As long as they think that the border is open, they’re going to continue coming… that’s the reality of it.”
“It’s not only Republicans,” he added. “I’m telling you. The Latinos in South Texas, and I’ve been in some of those counties just the last couple days… they want the border secured.”
Cuellar’s comments coincided with an increase of migrants at the U.S. southern border.
Border officials encountered over 1.5 million migrants at the U.S./Mexico border from October 2020 to August 2021, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Comparatively, border officials encountered over 458,000 migrants from October 2019 to September 2020, CBP data showed.
CBP data also showed an increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border. Border officials encountered over 133,000 unaccompanied minors at the border from October 2020 to August 2021. Comparatively, border officials encountered fewer than 40,000 unaccompanied minors from October 2019 to September 2020, CBP data showed.
Cuellar has long criticized Democratic President Joe Biden‘s handling of the migrants coming to the southern border. He also has a reputation as one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, according to the San Antonio Express News.
Cuellar has praised Biden and Harris for telling migrants not to come to the border. However, he has also criticized the administration for allowing some undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States, something he said contributes to the perception that the U.S. border is open.
“We’ve got to enforce the law and part of the laws we have is deport the people that don’t have a right to be here in the United States,” he said in June, according to Politico. “It’s just plain and simple.”
In June, Cuellar urged Biden and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris to visit the border and speak with local law enforcement, elected officials and business leaders to better understand the local impact of migrants at the border, the aforementioned publication reported.
“Somebody needs to listen to our local communities,” he added. “With all due respect, just coming and doing a staged visit is not enough. They have to understand.”
The following month, Cuellar signed a joint letter with Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham asking Biden to appoint former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as a border czar.
“We need somebody that can look at the comprehensive view of what we’re seeing here,” Cuellar said. “It’s not a simple solution.”
In an early April interview, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said that he believes immigrants from his country have been heading to the U.S. under the belief that Biden may allow them into the country.
After Biden won the 2020 election, he pledged to try to reduce Central and South American migration to the United States. His administration is developing an aid package that will encourage regional governments to “clean up their police, increase tax collection, fight corruption and create the opportunities necessary to convince would-be migrants to remain in their countries.”
Newsweek contacted Cuellar’s office for comment.