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Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., watches election returns in her race for the U.S. Senate with former Gov. Phil Bredesen Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Franklin, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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FILE -- People wait in line for food as they are held by Customs and Border Protection in an enclosed area beneath the Paso del Norte International Bridge in El Paso, Texas, March 29, 2019. President Donald Trump has called for imposing tariffs on Mexico, the administration's latest attempt to dissuade Central Americans from journeying north, while migrant families continue to arrive in unprecedented numbers. (Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times)

Looking south across the dry Rio Grande riverbed outside of El Paso, Texas, there's not much to see. The El Paso Border Station, however, is full to bursting with migrants waiting to be processed.

Over the past decade, I have made several trips to monitor the situation on the border, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw during a visit earlier this month.

To enter one of these border facilities is to encounter chaos and uncertainty.

It is heart-wrenching to see young mothers alone with their babies, waiting on answers from an agency stretched to its limit. Watching families discover they had fallen victim to the cartels' lies about entry into the United States tested the limits of my temper.

The appalling conditions at those stations shock the conscience, but they don't surprise me. Just last month, 144,000 migrants crossed the border.

This steady influx has led to a mess that our agents are unequipped to clean up.

Right now, the facilities at the El Paso Border Station house more than 1,000 migrants; they were built to hold 123 people. At just one station in the El Paso Sector, $26,000 per day is spent on food — an amount that cuts deep into operations budgets.

If it were just a question of numbers, the situation might seem more manageable. However, drugs, disease and a frightening disregard for the law have transformed border stations into war zones.

Agents struggle to prevent outbreaks of highly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, measles and chicken pox, a task they certainly did not sign up for.

Loopholes in regulations controlling the release of minors to purported custodians endanger the more than 11,000 children who crossed the Southern border alone in May. To make things worse, child predators cross the border in record numbers.

On June 7, border agents seized enough fentanyl to kill nearly 2 million Americans, but the druglords remain undeterred — they're posting Facebook ads soliciting mules to run their deadly product across the border.

The time for debate is over. We must act now.

I sponsored the Accountability for Care of Unaccompanied Alien Children Act to codify an information-sharing agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services that helps prevent traffickers from funneling children into trafficking rings, but that protection isn't possible if there are no agents available to perform background checks.

In May, the White House sent an emergency request to Congress for $4.5 billion in additional funds to increase shelter capacity for adults and minors, care for detained migrants, and hire more agents and support staff.

That request was rejected by Democrats.

I would like to ask those who don't believe immediate relief at the border is a priority: What will happen when our agents have finally had enough?

What will happen when our best line of defense along the Southern border is stretched past its breaking point?

It is abundantly clear that our current problems cannot be solved by tightening the purse strings and waiting for comprehensive reform.

It's time to put the politics of immigration aside and recognize that this isn't a matter of numbers on a page. It is a matter of life and death.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018.

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