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EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, is sounding the alarm about what he says is a secretive and “very organized” operation to bring illegal migrants into the U.S. and facilitate their transport across the country — amid growing concern from Republicans about the transport and release of migrants in the U.S.
Gooden spoke to Fox News during a visit to the border in San Diego, where he described seeing buses of migrants traveling through toward sealed-off hotels that are being operated by well-funded nonprofits.
“We followed the bus into the gates and proceeded to watch it unload 50 or so immigrants and it looked like they all had a potato sack or a grapefruit bag full of possessions, clothing items, etc.,” he said. “They were taken for COVID testing and separated, and we were told they would spend a night or two there before they would be taken to various destinations across the U.S.”
“They are saying where they want to go and these private groups – I don’t know where they are getting their funding – these private groups are buying them plane tickets and giving them a package of information about what to do when they get to the airport, how to get past [Transportation Security Administration] without ID, what to say and then how to enroll their children in schools when they get to where they are going.”
“These buses come over and over throughout the day to these various hotels that say they are closed for construction, when they are very much open and they’re just closed to the public,” he said.
Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, visits the southern border in San Diego. (Rep. Lance Gooden’s office)
The Biden administration has rolled back many Trump-era policies which kept migrants out of the U.S. It has ended the Migrant Protection Protocols – which kept migrants in Mexico for their hearings – and it is only using Title 42 public health protections in a limited capacity to deport single adults and some migrant families.
As a result, tens of thousands of migrant families and unaccompanied children, as well as some single adults are being released into the U.S. each month. Unaccompanied children are moved to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) care and eventually transferred to “sponsors” already in the country.
Migrant families are also helped to get to where they may have relatives or friends, and state and federal government agencies have worked with and contracted with nonprofits to facilitate temporary housing at hotels, information packets and flights and other transport across the country.
Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Texas, walks down the House steps after the last votes of the week at the Capitol on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Photo by Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
International organizations like the U.N. are also involved with providing migrant assistance — with Gooden’s office saying more than $342 million in taxpayer money has gone to the U.N.’s International Organization of Migration operations south of the border.
A packet given to migrants, and obtained by Gooden’s office via a whistleblower, included flight information, copies of the Notice to Appear from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a list of pro bono legal service providers, maps of major cities in the U.S. and information and legal assistance in Spanish.
It also includes a letter from the nonprofit to be handed to TSA officials, urging them to be allowed onto a flight with the limited ID they have that the letter says should be adequate for them to be searched in the Secure Flight program.
“It seems very organized and premeditated and I would like to know who is behind the funding for this organization, is the state of California mismanaging federal funds, are private entities funding this, are foreign organizations funding these private entities?” Gooden asked.
“I’d like to know what sort of coordination is taking place with the countries south of us, especially Mexico, because it’s impossible for these people to so easily get here without help from the southern side of the border,” he said.
The transport of migrants into the U.S. in such large numbers has led to questions about vetting, accountability, safety and funding. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized the secrecy behind what his office says are more than 70 “unannounced” flights into Jacksonville since the summer. DeSantis said he was given “no notice” and thus no ability to veto the flights.
On one of those flights was a 24-year-old Honduran national who told Border Patrol he was an unaccompanied child. He was arrested last month for the brutal stabbing death of a Florida man who had taken him in.
DeSantis told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that he is looking at a range of actions to target the companies facilitating the flights into the state. Republicans in states including New York and Tennessee have also expressed their anger at the transports.
“We’re looking at what we can do. I think that they use these private contractors. So what we’re looking at is how can we fight back against the contractors. We can obviously deny them state contracts, which we will do. Can we deny them access to Florida’s market generally? Can we tax them? Can we do things to provide disincentives so they can’t do it? So we’re going to do whatever we can to do it,” DeSantis said.
Gooden shared that frustration over the secrecy and lack of accountability.
“We’re not getting any kind of answers from anyone,” he said. “The problem we face when these organizations operate in secrecy, there’s also no accountability and no ability for oversight and I think that anything like this needs quite a lot of oversight.”
Fox News’ requests for comment to DHS and to California Gov. Gavin Newsom were not immediately returned.