Apostolic Leadership, including David K. Bernard, Tour Border Facilities: Report Humane, Well-Maintained Facilities

On Thursday November 14, 2019, a group tour by the National Apostolic Christian Leadership Conference, newly organized & endorsed by UPCI was taken of the border facilities in McAllen and Harlingten, Texas. Bishop David K. Bernard is one of the people who went on the tour with other church officials arranged by President Trump’s religious liaison.

Bishop Bernard is the General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, the largest body of Oneness Pentecostal believers in the world. This trip was document on social media via pictures and a video (see bottom of article)) and finally on Tuesday November 20th he provided an in depth record of his visit and what he saw and experienced at the facilities:

Border Visit. Because of questions and comments, I am posting more information. We visited the Border Patrol processing center for the McAllen Sector, which handles 40% of the illegal crossings of the southern US border. No doubt the long-term employees wanted us to see them doing a good job in good circumstances. However, they couldn’t hide the state of the facility, which was established under President Obama. Nor could they fake the rooms, equipment, personnel, and so on. We saw what they have been criticized for, and we also received explanations for them: the chain-link pods (rooms in a large warehouse), the Mylar blankets, the mats on the floor for sleeping, the large number of poor migrants just waiting, sitting, standing, or lying down with nothing to do and disappointed because they will likely be sent back to Mexico due to the recent agreement with the US. Of course, the sight makes us feel sorry for them and the circumstances that led them to risk the journey.

The goal is to process them within 24 hours; it isn’t a residential center or even a detention center. They can process about 300 people per day, but when there is a huge number of crossings it can overwhelm the system and delay the processing, which leads to scenes of people waiting in facilities that aren’t prepared for long-term living. We saw stacks of food, water, and clothing free for the taking 24 hours, laundry room, showers, and other facilities. It would be difficult to fake this for our visit. We also saw large numbers of children who are unaccompanied minors, either coming alone or coming with people who aren’t their parents as determined by DNA testing. We asked questions in Spanish of the migrants. We didn’t see evidence of abuse, mistreatment, lack of food, lack of sanitation, lack of clothing, lack of drinking water, or anything like that, and none of the people reported that.

We also visited a residential facility in Harlingen for unaccompanied males ages 13-17. It’s a home run by Baptists, for which the government pays all the costs, and we talked to the employees and managers, most of whom are Hispanic. It was previously a boarding school. The children live in dorm rooms equivalent to college, eat good meals in the cafeteria, and receive free medical care, clothing, education, and professional counseling. Some have already earned GEDs. The goal is to send them to a family member or friend in the US that agrees to take them. Otherwise, they can stay in residence until age 18, at which time they are released in the US. In essence, if they can find a way to cross the border, they can stay in the US forever, with free care until age 18. This is compassionate and generous of our government, as it should be, but it creates a magnet for continual illegal immigration, which in turn results in payment of high fees to gangs and smugglers, high risk of unaccompanied minors to be abused or injured along the way, diversion of resources that need to be used to stop drug and human trafficking, and expenditure of resources that could be used to help needy people already in the US.

Moreover, court decisions require release of families with children within 20 days. They are supposed to reappear in court, but over 90% never do, and they just live illegally in the US. This is another magnet that creates risk especially for women and children. It results in child “loaning” and child “renting” (30% of the children aren’t with parents but with people who borrow or rent them as “human visas”). After such “families” are released, the children can go back to Border Patrol and ask to be sent back to Mexico, which is their right, to rejoin their true parents. Sometimes, the same children return again with other adults. In the past, 70% of migrants were single, male Mexicans looking for jobs, but due to the court decisions and poor living conditions, most are now families from Central America with children who hope they will just be released to live in the US. To address this problem, the US has recently reached an agreement with Mexico that it will try to stop the crossings from its southern border, that it will take back up to 300 migrants per day, and that people can apply for asylum from Mexico rather than be released in the US never to show up in court for their hearing (as the vast majority don’t qualify for asylum).

We also visited a section of border wall in Hidalgo. Yes, new portions are being built. No, it doesn’t stop all illegal crossings, but it stops about 65%, which enables the processing center to operate as intended. It also stops smuggling of vans full of drugs that are floated on pontoons across the river and then driven into the US. Unlike most border land in CA, AZ, and NM, the border land in Texas isn’t owned by the government but by private landowners. Thus, in Texas there is no road alongside the border itself. Even when surveillance identifies an illegal crossing or drug running, the Border Patrol must drive along roads that are miles away, identify the land owner where the problem is, get his or her permission, drive onto the property to the border, then drive back out of the property to the next problem area. This makes response time very slow and requires a huge number of personnel. As more border wall is built, the government gets an easement to build a road along the wall and installs sophisticated surveillance along the wall. Thus, when there is a breach, such as someone trying to climb the 20-foot wall, or saw through the steel, the Border Patrol can race to the scene in a short time and then go directly to the next problem. A smaller group can effectively patrol the 177 miles of the sector.

The bottom line is this: (1) Our border personnel work hard and aren’t abusive or cruel. They aren’t racist. They are mostly Hispanic, as is the total population in the Rio Grande Valley, many of whose families have lived in Texas for generations, some before Texas joined the Union. They are bipartisan. The facilities (including this one with its pods), the system, and the long-term personnel are basically the same from the previous administration to the present one. (2) The system is overwhelmed and dysfunctional. It allows massive drug trafficking, human trafficking, and mistreatment of children along the way, and it provides many incentives for illegal migration. (3) We need reasonable, bipartisan legislative solutions that allow us to accept workers that the economy needs while stopping or returning people who haven’t followed a legal process. We have a right and responsibility to protect our border, the rule of law, the integrity of our nation, and the safety and security of our citizens. (4) While it is understandable that people from many nations want to live in America, and we don’t think they are bad people for wanting this, nevertheless we cannot take in everyone who who is fleeing poverty or who simply wants a better life, or else we will harm the very economy and culture that they are wanting to find. We should partner with their home and transit countries to help them live successfully within their own nation and culture.