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Lawmakers to highlight humanitarian crisis at border ‘colonias,’ in southern Texas hearing

A congressional committee Friday will hold the first field hearing of the current Congress at the southern border, highlighting a humanitarian crisis on the U.S. side of the frontier. 

The Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, chaired by Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., will tour “colonias” near McAllen, Texas, in the district of committee member Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas. 

Colonias are impoverished neighborhoods or settlements, often lacking running water, sewage treatment or other basic infrastructure needs. They are very common in Texas, mostly near the border with Mexico. While some residents of these settlements are not U.S. citizens, according to Pew Charitable Trusts, a very large number are, or are documented in some way. 

“We’re showing places where Americans citizens live in the United States of America in third world conditions,” Gonzalez told Fox News Digital. “If you look at the average household income, it’s under $15,000 per year. And it’s tragic and I’m proud to bring members down to see it for themselves so when we go back to Washington we can make decisions that work for all Americans.”

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Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, D-Texas, represents a South Texas district that borders Mexico and is home to many impoverished "colonia" communities. The House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth is holding a field hearing on those colonias Friday. 

The committee’s hearing is set to focus on how to improve infrastructure in the unincorporated colonias. 

Members will meet colonia residents and local officials as it seeks to find “underscore practical approaches – from the federal to local level – to enhance roadways, improve drainage infrastructure, and expand access to broadband.”

The border visit comes as U.S. officials grapple with migrants crossing the southern border in record numbers, often fleeing poverty and poor humanitarian conditions abroad. But Himes told Fox News Digital that the conditions at the colonias, which are essentially disconnected from the modern world, show you don’t have to look beyond our borders to find abject poverty. 

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“These colonias are in some ways defined by the fact that they’re very literally not hooked up to infrastructure. You know, a lot of them don’t have drinking water, much less broadband,” Himes said. 

“We’re a very wealthy country and the pockets of poverty that we have,” he also said, “it sort of calls us out.”

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Meanwhile, some GOP committee members, including Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Kat Cammack, R-Fla., and Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., will also tour the border near the Rio Grande with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). 

On a Thursday night visit to the border, those three Republicans witnessed several migrants being detained, including one girl who had already been to the U.S. before and spoke fluent English. 

Republicans are highlighting the massive surge of migrants at the border, including nearly 240,000 encounters by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in May, which they allege is President Biden’s fault. 

Both federal and state law enforcement agencies are sending reinforcements to the southern border as CBP border encounters nearly hit 240,000 in May. 

They often warn about the dangers of human trafficking, drugs and international criminal organizations entering the U.S. Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth Ranking Member Brian Steil, R-Wis., tweeted Thursday that he’ll be “discussing the border crisis and fentanyl” on his visit Friday. 

In addition to stretching federal resources, the record numbers of border crossings are roping in state law enforcement too. Hotels near McAllen are packed with large numbers of Texas law enforcement taking part in Operation Lone Star at the order of Gov. Greg Abbott. 

Among the agencies participating in that operation for Texas are the Texas Game Warden, Texas National Guard and more.

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