The recent surge in illegal immigration brought Governor Perry, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and local leaders to testify before U.S. representatives from congressional districts in Texas and around the U.S.
The Committee on Homeland Security held a congressional field hearing in McAllen on the Crisis on the Texas Border: Surge of Unaccompanied Minors.
The committee was chaired by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) in light of what some are calling an immigration crisis along the Texas-Mexico border.
Ranking member of congress listened on as the Texas governor, Hidalgo County Interim Sheriff Eddie Guerra, a Catholic bishop and the Hidalgo county judge gave testimony on the immigration surge.
The Rio Grande Valley is now the sector experiencing the highest amount of illegal immigration.
Chairman of the committee, McCaul, started off the hearing by saying he believes federal policies are driving the surge in illegal immigration.
Action 4 News has compiled a list of memorable moments and quotes from the #RGVhearing from the Twitter feed of @CristinaKGBT.
Governor Rick Perry
Governor Rick Perry was the first to testify before the congressional committee on Homeland Security.
He said the Texas-Mexico border is less secure than it has been in years and added drug cartels, organized criminals, are taking advantage of immigration problem along the border.
Make no mistake, there is more than one crisis happening along the U.S. border, Perry said addressing national security and the humanitarian crisis.
On national security, he claimed organized criminals are using the surge of illegal immigration as a tactical move by drug cartels to the south of the RGV.
I truly believe this is manufactured, some degree, by drug cartels, Perry testified about the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
Perry and other state leaders ordered a surge of DPS along the border amid the crisis, which costs the state about $1.3 million per week.
He said the State of Texas has put in a request to the federal government to be reimbursed for what he said is the federal government TMs responsibility, securing the US-Mexico border.
Perry highlighted the need for more boots on the ground including national guard and border patrol agents.
Lawmakers estimate 50,000 unaccompanied immigrants have made the illegal trek into the U.S. this year alone.
Allowing them (unauthorized immigrants) to remain here will encourage the next group of individuals, Perry said addressing the need to deport immigrants immediately.
A bipartisan Senate bill has not been brought to the house floor for a vote.
Perry said conversations about immigration reform are going to fall on deaf ears if the problem of border security is not addressed by the federal government.
The Texas governor said immigration is the one issue President Obama needs congress to cooperate on. This is the one time President Obama needs all of you, he before the 12 member of congress.
In his closing remarks, Perry encouraged congress to work together despite disagreements.
Inquiries from congresspersons on committee
Governor Perry and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-California) talked over each as they questioned one another on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Swalwell asked Perry if he really thought it has taken two years for word about DACA to reach Central America referring to rumors that the immigration crisis stemmed from the DACA program.
The California congressman said he spoke with an unaccompanied minor. He wasn TMt holding an invitation from President Obama, Swalwell said.
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) said he was going to take his D cap off and asked Perry to take his R (Republican) cap off as they talked about immigration.
Green said immigrants are illegally crossing into the U.S. for many reasons, including to work.
Meanwhile, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) said the state government would have to come up with $33.5 million if the surge in illegal immigration continues.
Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) asked Perry if he agreed with President Obama TMs plan, which includes adding more judges to speed up the deportation process.
Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX), the only congressman on the committee from the Rio Grande valley, said there are two separate issues which need to be addressed, border security and a pathway to citizenship.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said she believes the influx in immigration has caused a humanitarian crisis. I think we need to continue to use that terminology, TM she said.
The South Texas region needs our help, Lee said adding leaders should be cautious about rushing to judgment.
She believes violence in Central America is driving immigrants out of their countries.
Lee ended by thanking all members for making the trip down to south Texas, and she reiterated the importance of national security in regards to the surge of illegal immigration.
State and local leaders
The head of Texas DPS, Steve McCraw, testified before the congressional committee about the criminal activity associated with the immigration surge.
McCraw said if there is a drug problem in the state, then there is a drug cartel problem.
He said not enough resources have been given to law enforcement for them to do their job along the border.
Hidalgo County Interim Eddie Guerra testified that his greatest concern is the immigrant deaths, which he says have risen by the year, including 19 deaths in 2012.
I realize the challenge immigration reform bring, but they have face and they have names, Guerra said.
Catholic Bishop Seitz said Texans have big hearts and US bishops have supported reform of the immigration system.
Americans are compassionate people, Seitz testified asking members of the committee to consider the personal stories of the immigrant children.
I was very moved this morning while visiting holding facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, Rep. Renee Ellmers said reflecting on being a mother while at the facility.
Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia said, These are kids. They TMre no drug dealers. They TMre not terrorists and said the unaccompanied minors have been treated like they are.
Garcia said federal funds need to go to hiring more judges, which would speed up the hearing process and expedite deportations.
This is a federal issue and our local governments and charitable organization should not be forced to bear the financial burden of providing the most basic human kindness, Garcia said.
Members of congress heard testimony from the leaders for about three and a half hours.
Their next hearing on border security is scheduled to take place July 7th in Washington DC.
They will then be hearing from the president of the National Border Patrol Council.