Pa. Rep. Smucker to help lead bipartisan border trip to U.S.-Mexico border on Friday

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background. WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomascastelazo.

An ardent Pennsylvania supporter of President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies will be one of the co-leaders of a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, where a bipartisan congressional coalition will visit migrant detention centers, even as Washington finds itself stymied on immigration reform.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-11th District, will serve as the co-leader of the trip, along with U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, in the Rio Grande Valley on Friday.

Members of Congress are slated to tour points of entry, a border patrol station, and a centralized processing center. They also will inspect the physical U.S.-Mexico border and will participate in briefings and discussions with experts on the ground.

The lawmakers heading to the border are members of the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” a bipartisan group that’s branded its work as an effort to overcome the deep political divides that stall major policy reform. But it’s had limited success in doing so in recent years.

“The crisis at the border is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation and must be addressed by Congress. I am proud to lead this bipartisan visit with Rep. Dean Phillips to see first-hand the dire situation on our southern border,” Smucker said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the Problem Solvers Caucus can once again work together to put forth bipartisan solutions to this critical issue.”

Phillips, who’s making his second trip to the border as a member of Congress, said in a statement that he “was so struck by what I witnessed the first time that I resolved to co-lead a bipartisan group of lawmakers on another visit. We’re not going just to see the crisis for ourselves – but to sit at a table as Democrats and Republicans and discuss actionable ideas to reform our broken immigration system.

“I’m hopeful that we can work together to immediately improve conditions at our border and identify solutions that members of both parties can support,” he said.

Rep. Dan Meuser, R-9th District, who’s also going on the trip, said “the crisis at the border is real. I look forward to this bipartisan and informative trip discussing issues with both sides of the aisle to find a workable solution.”

This isn’t the first time that a Pennsylvania lawmaker has ventured to the border. Freshmen Democratic U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, of Montgomery County’s 4th District, and Mary Gay Scanlon, of the Delaware County-based 5th District, have both made border visits.

Scanlon visited the border in February where, along with other members of Congress, she met with “Customs and Border Patrol agents, [and] with local advocates and community organizations representing migrants fleeing violence and seeking asylum under our law.” She also visited a migrant hospitality center.

“From asylum seekers and immigrants fleeing violence to the importance of supporting our border patrol agents with modern technology and resources, one thing this clear: This is a complex challenge that requires multi-pronged policy solutions,” Scanlon said in a statement posted to her website. “Our diversity not only makes us stronger but is the foundation of who we are as Americans. We can protect our borders while addressing the very real humanitarian crisis. I am so grateful to my colleagues for the opportunity to join them on this insightful trip.”

Dean traveled to an immigrant detention center in Clint, Texas, earlier this month where, according to The Atlantic, “she met weeping women and exchanged notes with detained children.”

“Nothing prepares you for the inhumanity of it,” Dean told The Atlantic, which reported the trip was “organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus following media reports that 250 infants and children were being held in poor conditions in the latter facility, without access to enough food and water, or adequate sanitation.” Dean was one of 14 members of Congress to make the trip.

Republican U.S. Rep. John Joyce, of the Blair County-based 13th District, and also a freshman, made headlines when his April border trip netted him a Twitter shout-out from President Donald Trump.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.

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