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Ernst Reflects On Visit To Border; Wants Federal Agencies Stationed Away From D.C.

John Pemble/IPR
Republican Sen. Joni Ernst recently returned from a trip to the Texas-Mexico border.

Iowa’s Junior U.S. Senator is emphasizing the need to care for migrants coming to the U.S. even as she reiterates her desire to secure the southern border. Republican Sen. Joni Ernst recently returned from a trip to the Texas-Mexico border.
Ernst visited a few facilities at the border last weekend, including a port of entry and a shelter for children. She is advocating for a permanent solution to what she calls a “humanitarian crisis” at the border.

“Providing care to migrants is non-negotiable, but so is securing our border and permanently fixing the loopholes and systemic issues that exist in our current immigration system,” Ernst said.

Recent reports in national media have emphasized that some facilities are over capacity, children are sleeping on floors and are hungry. Ernst described the conditions at the facilities she saw as "uncomfortable" but migrants are receiving three hot meals each day, she said.

“They do have contract services with local restaurants to provide meals to those migrants. They have snacks on demand. The children especially, they are very, very attentive to children,” Ernst said. “Any time they want a juice box or water, whatever it is...any of those items, all they have to do is request them and they get them.”

Ernst adds she was able to meet with some of the agents and migrants as well with “no holds barred.” She said she heard frequently during her visit about the need to revise asylum laws and to bring in more judges to process claims.

Senator Reintroduces Act To Move Federal Agency Headquarters Out Of D.C.

Ernst also wants federal agencies stationed in Washington D.C. to move their headquarters closer to communities affected by their decisions.

Ernst on Thursday re-introduced an act to make that happen, called the “Strategic Withdrawal of Agencies for Meaningful Placement Act” or “SWAMP Act.” Ernst said the Obama-era Waters of the United States rule is an example of something that did not work for Iowa.  The rule expanded federal protections for some waterways, but many farmers feared it would extend to ponds and ditches on their land.

If the people who wrote the rule were based in the Midwest, they may have approached it differently, Ernst said.

“How can these rule-makers fully consider and understand the effects of their decisions when those who are most impacted by the regulations are out of sight and out of mind? The answer is they can’t. And we need to fix that,” she said.

The Trump administration has already announced moving sections of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Interior outside of D.C. Ernst said she wants to build on that.