Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall pleased with treatment of migrants as Democrats sound alarms

As Democrats decry conditions in federal facilities housing migrants at the southern border, a Kansas GOP congressman came away with a vastly different opinion after a recent trip to Texas.

Rep. Roger Marshall, a likely candidate for U.S. Senate, traveled as a member of the “Doc Caucus,” a group of Republican doctors in Congress.

The Kansas Republican toured multiple sites in the McAllen area, including a processing center, a tent city and a warehouse where migrants seeking asylum are held. Marshall, an obstetrician from Great Bend, said in a phone call Friday that he was pleased at the quality of medical attention and housing.

“One of them was adequate with lots of room for improvement and the other one was good,” Marshall said of the housing he visited.

“They have showers, put them all through medical assessment,” Marshall said. “We’re trying. Is there room for improvement? Yes.”

The Kansas congressman’s assessment was strikingly different from the conclusions from a group of Democrats who this week visited separate facilities in the El Paso area, more than 700 miles west of the facilities Marshall toured in the McAllen area.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, posted video on Twitter of migrant women being housed in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility who he said had been deprived showers and medication.

“Many said they had not bathed for 15 days. Some had been separated from children, some had been held for more than 50 days. Several complained they had not received their medications, including one for epilepsy. Members of Congress comforted them when the women broke down,” said Castro, whose twin brother Julián Castro is running for president.

“The tents outside, used during the surge recently, were dark and surrounded by chain link fences. The showers — mobile units — were dank, dirty and only too small in number for the hundreds of people there just a few weeks ago,” said Castro, who was one of several Democratic lawmakers to rail against the conditions of the Texas facilities.

Marshall criticized his Democratic colleagues when he was asked about the comments from Castro and other Democrats on the same trip, including New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III.

“It’s ironic that Democrats’ theatrics and screaming at Border Patrol agents comes after their refusal to properly fund the border the last 2 and a half years. And remember — just 6 months ago the Democrats dismissed this as a ‘manufactured crisis,’” Marshall said in an email Tuesday.

“These migrants are distraught after a horrible, stressful and often violent journey led by cartels, and encouraged by loopholes in our asylum laws,” he wrote. “It reminds me of the refugee mission fields I’ve practiced medicine in around the world. Our Border Patrol and medical teams are doing their absolute best under the situation this obstruction has handed them.”

A report released Tuesday by Department of Homeland Security Acting Inspector General Jennifer Costello raised concerns of overcrowding at some of the same McCallen area facilities that Marshall visited. The report features pictures of detainees in standing room only facilities.

“We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained,” states the report, which is based on June inspections of multiple facilities.

During his trip, Marshall stood beneath a bridge at the Rio Grande River and watched three migrant families turn themselves into U.S. Border Patrol agents.

He said the trip to the border re-solidified his support for President Donald Trump’s border wall proposal.

“President Trump is right. We need to build a border wall. We need better security. The dam is broke and we just need better support down here,” he said.

Asked about an effort to build a wall through private dollars, championed by fellow Kansas Republican Kris Kobach, who Marshall might face in a Senate primary, the congressman dismissed the effort as “spitting in the wind.” He said the problem was too large for privately funded walls on individual properties to be effective.

“Rule of law is my big concern and as I talk to border agents here,” Marshall said. “Cartels are making more money from this than shipping drugs.”

Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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