House Passes Border Bill as Illegal Alien Encounters Surge on Southern Border
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday aimed at securing the United States’ southern border and stopping the flood of illegal aliens entering the country.
“I was pleased to see provisions to restart construction of the border wall, end catch and release, and reinstate the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy included in this package,” Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., who voted in support of the bill, told The Daily Signal.
The bill passed largely along party lines in a vote of 219 to 213, with two Republicans voting against it and no Democrats voting for it.
“I represent a border state, so I know that our southern border is in crisis,” Lesko said. “President [Joe] Biden and [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas have allowed Title 42 to expire with no plan to secure our border. House Republicans have a plan.”
The vote on the bill comes the same day as the expiration of Title 42, a public health measure set in place under the Trump administration that has allowed Border Patrol to quickly expel some illegal aliens from the county. Without Title 42, illegal alien encounters at the southern border are expected to double, with the Department of Homeland Security projecting an average of 13,000 encounters a day.
Encounter numbers have already spiked this week, with Fox News’ Bill Melugin reporting Wednesday that Customs and Border Protection sources tell him “Border Patrol apprehended more than 10,300 migrants who crossed illegally yesterday, and Monday also broke the 10,000 threshold. I’m told these are the highest single day totals ever recorded – and it’s expected to go even higher after T42 drops tomorrow.”
“President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas have created and perpetuated a horrific humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, told The Daily Signal.
“Unsurprisingly, they failed to prepare for the end of Title 42 and instead of adopting stricter border security measures to address this latest surge of illegal immigration, they are releasing illegal immigrants into the country with no way to track them,” Hinson said. “While the Biden administration flounders, I was proud to support legislation that will secure our border, combat illegal immigration, and help stop the flow of fentanyl into our communities.”
The bill is the result of months of deliberation, according to Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who, during a hearing Tuesday, explained the provisions in the bill aimed at addressing the border crisis.
The bill, known as HR 2 or the Secure the Border Act of 2023, “addresses the immediate impact of the crisis by focusing on mitigating and stopping the surge of illegal aliens and drugs flowing across the U.S. borders, mainly between ports of entry,” Green said.
“This bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to use previously appropriated but unexpired funding to immediately resume construction of the border wall,” Green said, going on to detail several of the bill’s other key components:
It also makes targeted investments in border technology by deploying the most effective technology available, such as advanced surveillance sensors and drones, and requires a five-year technology investment plan to provide an analysis of security risks and capability gaps at and between ports of entry.
This bill also demands transparency from DHS by requiring monthly reporting of critical border security data, including the number of known gotaways and known or suspected terrorists. The American people expect this type of transparency.
It also authorizes and increases Operation Stonegarden grants to support state and local law enforcement, who are bearing the brunt of this crisis as the federal government continues to fail in its mission.
Lastly, the bill addresses the major staffing challenge at U.S. Border Patrol, which was just recently highlighted in a DHS inspector general report laying out how the unsustainable conditions at our southwest border are negatively impacting the health and morale of our front-line law enforcement.
Lesko is urging her fellow lawmakers in the Senate to “expeditiously take up and pass this critical legislation,” but Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., predicts Democrats won’t bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.
“[Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer would not bring it up to this floor, so we won’t have a vote on it in the Senate,” Scott said during a recent “Daily Signal Podcast” interview.
If the Democrat-controlled Senate did vote on the bill and it managed to gain enough support to pass, the White House has already indicated that Biden will veto the bill.
“While we welcome Congress’ engagement on meaningful steps to address immigration and the challenges at the border, this bill would make things worse, not better,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement, going on to say the bill “should be rejected.”
Since Biden took office, Customs and Border Protection reports about 5 million encounters with illegal aliens at the southern border. Since fiscal year 2023 began in October, CBP reports a record 1.2 million encounters.
With illegal alien encounters expected to rise with the end of Title 42, the Biden administration has announced a new asylum rule effective once Title 42 expires.
The new rule requires illegal aliens to first seek asylum in another country they travel through and be denied before they seek asylum in the U.S.
“If individuals do not access their lawful pathways, the pathways that we have made available to them, they will face a rebuttable presumption, but a presumption of ineligibility,” Mayorkas, the DHS secretary, said of the new rule during a press conference Wednesday.
Mayorkas’ reference to “lawful pathways” includes use of the CBP One mobile app, which allows illegal aliens to schedule an appointment at a port of entry to seek asylum.
But Biden’s new rule is already drawing criticism.
“The asylum rule simply directs everyone towards using the made-up, illegal mass parole programs that the Biden administration erroneously labels ‘lawful pathways’ by using the CBP One mobile app to get a parole appointment at an interior airport,” Simon Hankinson, a senior research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“In the long run,” Hankinson continued, “this won’t discourage anyone. Those who can use the parole app process will, those who can’t will just come anyway and cross illegally. The best we can hope for is that the new asylum rule reduces flows about as much as Title 42 did, and things remain status quo—a poorly managed disaster.”