Visiting the Texas-Mexico border, Rep. Michael Cloud saw what it was really like on the ground for Border Patrol agents, what the drug cartels were taking advantage of, and how secure the border actually is. The Texas Republican also visited an unaccompanied minors facility—and found out that around 40% of the girls there had been sexually abused on their way to the U.S. Read the full interview, posted below, or listen on the podcast:

We also cover these stories:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is adamant that impeachment is still a possibility.
  • Around 90% of families asking for asylum didn’t show up for their court dates, per the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Another social media site is censoring pro-lifers.

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Daniel Davis: I’m joined now in studio by Congressman Michael Cloud. He represents Texas’ 27th Congressional District. Congressman, it’s been a few weeks. Appreciate your joining us again in studio.

Rep. Michael Cloud: Sure. It’s good to be back.

Davis: So, you’re fresh off of a congressional trip to the border. You took a few of your colleagues down to the border and it was their first time. Tell us why you went on this trip and what you saw.

Cloud: There’s a couple reasons. Certainly the situation has developed since I’ve been there about six months ago. I wanted to go back and get a firsthand update to see how we were dealing with it.

We’re up to, now, 144,000 migrants a month that are coming across three months in a row, over 100,000. I wanted to see how that was developing.

But while we were there, also, one of the things I realized when I got to Congress was the fact that coming from Texas, we have an understanding of how the border is affecting our communities.

But I began to realize that a lot of representatives didn’t have an understanding, whether they were for or against it. A lot of it was based on what they read, a report, or something like that.

It’s different when you go down there firsthand—you talk to the boots on the ground, you’re seeing the situation firsthand, you’re seeing the infrastructure, the tools that our agents are having to deal with.

Our capacity to deal with this situation is so limited compared to how well-funded the cartels are in doing what they’re trying to do.

During my first trip down there I asked them, I said, “So, what’s a win?” And the answer I got was, “Well, we’re trying to get to situation awareness right now.” I said, “What your next big win?” It wasn’t stopping the flow of drugs, of … slave trade, or anything like that …

We’re trying to have the tools we need to understand what the cartels are doing on the border. And that was before … the surge of 100,000 a month.

So going back, I wanted to get more details on how that was developing. And also show we can … bring understanding to other representatives, show them what was going on, and so we had a couple reps come with us.

We also brought a van of local media. That was interesting to see their eyes open … even within 20 minutes of being on the ground and talking to people on the ground, just like, “Oh, my. This is a serious situation.”

I think as a nation we’re finally past the point where we’re calling this a manufactured crisis. I think we realize it’s a real one, finally. I just hope we can find the will to really address it.

Davis: I understand that one of the Border Patrol officers that you spoke with said that they’re not even doing border security operations anymore. Can you explain what that’s about?

Cloud: Sure. We visited two sectors, the Rio Grande Valley sector, the Laredo sector. In each of those sectors, 40% to 50% of the agents who are supposed to be on the front lines are essentially doing paperwork. They’re sitting in a facility working on computers, filling out data entry as opposed to protecting our borders.

The cartels know and understand this, and it’s intentional. They’re taxing our resources because it opens up avenues for them in all the illicit activity that they make money on.

There was estimate, the cartels are making about $80 million a week off of their illicit activity while we fund, for that sector, it was $13 million a year …

In the Laredo sector in particular they have cameras and the camera monitoring station. They have enough cameras to, when everything’s working, monitor 13% of their responsibility, and the cameras are working about 75% of the time. They’re usually only up about 75% capacity on that.

And the cameras are from the 1990s, so we’re dealing with 20-, 30-year-old technology while the cartels … waste no dollars in flying drones up to monitor our activity, and they have night vision goggles, and all this kind of stuff.

We’re severely out-manned, we’re severely out-resourced, and it’s a sad situation.

Davis: And I understand you also visited an unaccompanied minor detention facility? Tell us about that.

Cloud: Yeah, that was really heartbreaking.

The particular facility we went to houses about 200 young ladies. And we asked while we were there what their situation was like and they said about 40% of them had been sexually abused along the way, along the route.

Davis: And is this … often from Central America, all the way up through Mexico?

Cloud: Yes, yes. Along the journey.

We went through one room, and all the young ladies there were in a class at the time, which we also visited, but their room facilities were open, so we toured that as well.

And on the wall, there’s … some art, that said, “I miss mom,” and it’s just heartbreaking to think what our lax policies have allowed to occur. You know?

The fact that these young ladies are being sent here and then being abused along the way is just—we’ve got to stop it.

Davis: Obviously, Congress is divided on this issue and that’s holding up a lot of what could be done.

Cloud: Right.

Davis: What are the things that the Department of Homeland Security could be doing without congressional approval that they’re not doing right now?

Cloud: Ultimately, this is Congress’ responsibility. So, I’m not going to be the congressman to come in here and try to wash our hands of that. This is Congress’ job to fix.

We need to fix the silent loopholes that have allowed this massive influx. … We need to fund our border security, we need the infrastructure, we need the boots on the ground, we need the technology, we need the beds. We need the whole package.

But, in the meantime, in our current environment, unfortunately, it looks like that’s not going to happen in the short term, and this is an emergency situation, which requires emergency action.

We’ve sent a letter to Homeland Security and to the president talking about some things that could be done with administrative action.

For one, we could train the Border Patrol agents to do the credible fear interviews.

What happens right now, they come, they get through information law, they get put on a docket that’s about 800,000 people back, and their court case might be in a couple years from now and they never show up. Right?

So, this is an interview that could happen within 30 minutes of crossing the border.

You think of an immigration judge, but it’s not a judge like you think, with the black robes, it doesn’t take a legal degree. They need to be trained to do it, to do it properly, but it could be done. It would take about two weeks of training.

Davis: So, you’re saying instead of having a whole court case that’s drawn out over years, just do it right there on the spot?

Cloud: Right. Immediately coming across the border. We just need agents trained to do it.

We could even set up video conferencing in a sense to where you have immigration judges in different parts of the country.

There’s a lot of ways to accomplish this, but the big deal is that instead of creating this two-, three-year backlog when we already have 800,000 people waiting for their hearing, and again, they rarely show up for their hearing, so, take care of that hearing right away …

What’s happening, of course, is migrants are coming across and they’re claiming a credible fear—a fear of persecution or something like that—when for the vast majority of them, 90% or more, it’s about finding a job. It’s about economics, which I understand, but there’s a different way to fix that situation, but that’s one of the big things we can do.

One of the other things is we’re giving work visas to people who are on that waiting list for their asylum court case. Well, we can stop giving work visas …

The deal is, what can we do to take away the magnet that’s drawing people here improperly? So, while we have a heart and concern for the world, the true answer to heal the world isn’t to migrate 3.5 billion people here who make $5, $10 a day. Half the world’s population makes about that much a day.

We can’t heal the world that way, but the thing we can do is stand for the principles our nation was founded on, and let other nations know, “If you stand for these principles, you can have the same sort of prosperity in your nation.”

The goal is for all people all over the world to have prosperity, to be able to live and pursue their dreams.

That’s the answer. The answer is for us to be that shining city on a hill and let the world know that, “Live by these principles, you can have the same prosperity.”

Of course, there’s a proper place for immigration, my wife’s an immigrant … At some point, we’re all children of immigrants.

Davis: Yeah.

Cloud: From the 1600s or yesterday. But when it comes down to it, we need to have a legal process so we can talk about reforming that legal process’ streaming, lining it, and making it simpler, as the president said when he was running, “Just put a big, beautiful gate.”

Davis: Yes.

Cloud: But, we need to have an environment that respects the laws of the land, and that people can come here and apply properly for citizenship, for legal status, and those kind of things.

Davis: You’ve said that Democrats are offering faux compassion on this issue of immigration and border security.

Cloud: Yeah.

Davis: Explain what you mean there.

Cloud: There’s kind of this thing in our culture where lawlessness is compassion in a sense. … It’s a false assumption. The idea that, well, if you want to uphold the laws of the land, you don’t care about people.

That’s the faux compassion. It’s not caring for my children to leave them undisciplined, it’s not caring for society to have laws that are not followed.

We can have a discussion of what the law should be, we can work to change it and have that rightful context, that discussion that’s supposed to happen in a republic.

But, this idea that we throw out the laws of the land or we comport with cartels, worst case, too, to allow their illicit activity to have an effect on our neighborhoods.

When you think of what’s happening on the border, when you truly understand what’s happening on the border, it’s having a far more impact on our neighborhoods across this country than what’s going on in Afghanistan.

But, we don’t treat the cartels on the southern side of our border, which control the entire southern part of our border, like they’re a hostile force.

We need to take seriously what’s going on there, and make sure that we’re doing everything we can to address it.

Davis: Much of the polarization on this issue seems to be coming from Washington and other communities that aren’t affected as much by this. Do you think if your Democratic colleagues came on a visit with you to the border that they would have second thoughts and change their position?

Cloud: I’d like to think so. I try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, unless I have a reason to otherwise.

That’s kind of why I say I came here and understood it. If you aren’t from Texas, you live in Wyoming, it might not be felt of as a need.

[It’s] a little harder to understand the impact, and that’s fair. But realize that you need to do due diligence of your job and really figure out what’s going on, because this is one of the top, if not the top, issue right now that we are dealing with as a country.

We have to deal with this. …

A few months ago, you heard a lot of talk about a manufactured crisis. Well, Nancy Pelosi, to her credit, did take a trip to the border and you haven’t heard the manufactured crisis now.

I think politically she’s not in a position where she feels like she can come out and say, “Well, I saw the light and I’m going to move this policy forward.” But you haven’t heard this talk about a manufactured policy or manufactured crisis anymore.

Davis: What about other Democrats? … Do you think they would be open to coming on a trip to the border?

Cloud: I think so, and we did reach out to a number of them to come with us on this time. We’re looking to plan another trip in the future. Many were open to it, so hopefully, we’ll be able to see that.

Davis: We saw over the weekend that President Trump made a deal with Mexico that involved a tariff threat, which was not needed eventually because the deal was made.

It involves Mexico sending 6,000 troops to secure their southern border.

Are you optimistic that this might finally stem the tide of migrants and give Border Patrol at least some relief?

Cloud: I’m happy to see that Mexico is partnering with us in this … They’ve, in a sense, been complicit in allowing this to happen. In the worst cases, they’ve aided and abetted.

A number of the cities and communities were busing people north to our border. Some of that was just kind of pass-the-potato kind of thing. But, it’s good … I was asked right off, “What do you think about this?” … You know, “What do you think about the tariffs?”

I live in a net export district, south, real close to the border, and so there’s a lot of concern that they’re on the plane the next day and they’re talking about it, finally, and they’re taking it seriously.

It looks like the president’s strategy has played out and worked in this situation, that Mexico is beginning to take it seriously.

Of course, this is a situation that is ever-evolving, and we have to stay on it and continue to monitor it. But, it’s certainly encouraging to see Mexico taking responsibility for their portion of this.

Davis: Yes, seems like the president finally found his leverage point where he could get around Democrats and Congress and force Mexico to provide some of the border security that we need from our own government.

Cloud: Right.

Davis: How do you feel about this in the longer term, over the next two to six years, this strategy, especially with tariffs? Do you think it’s a viable approach in the longer term?

Cloud: One thing we have to realize, you’ll see different members of Congress criticize but it’s our job to fix the problem. It’s Congress’ job to fix the problem. Short of us doing that, there’s not really good solutions left on the table.

We’ve passed the point of the good solutions. We’ve allowed this issue to fester for a long time …

Our entire systems at the southern border are taxed. It’s like if you have one spare bedroom and you invited somebody to come stay because you have a generous heart, but 50 to 100 people showed up and then you’re getting blamed for, “Well, why don’t you have room?”

It’s like, “Well, we just don’t have the capacity. We just don’t have the capacity, it’s not built.”

So, there’s not good solutions at this point that are going to be real easy. The situations we have right now are going to be tough. It’s an emergency situation that’s going to take dramatic action.

If this is what it takes, I’m happy to see that Mexico’s on board, and I’d like to think that in two to six years we’ll have this resolved and won’t be talking about it anymore.

That’s my optimism. Hopefully, … with dramatic action, with executive action, and maybe getting some other congressmen and women on board with this, we’ll be able to see some positive action forward on this.

Davis: If you do hear back from those Democrat colleagues, please let us know. We would love to have them on the podcast to talk about their experience on the border.

Cloud: Sure.

Davis: Congressman Cloud, thanks so much for coming back and joining us.

Cloud: Thank you.