As Biden Mixes Messages on Border Wall, a Senator Seeks to Empower States
The timing was probably coincidental, but the White House claim that congressionally allocated funds now must be spent on barrier construction seemed tenuous since the administration has refused to do so from Day One. The president stepped on his own announcement by reiterating his view that walls don’t work.
Sen. Josh Hawley’s State Border Defense Act would authorize states to construct barriers on federal lands and waterways along the southern border to prevent illegal immigration. The bill would also allow states to:
- Remove illegal immigrants from the country rather than sending them to other states.
- Prosecute people who commit crimes while entering the country illegally.
“Our southern border is overrun. Since the federal government refuses to enforce our immigration laws, states must be able to,” said Hawley, R-Mo. His measure mirrors some of the tactics already employed by Texas, and goes further by authorizing states to exercise deportation powers.
Whatever the rationale for the Biden border wall, an immigration watchdog group in Texas remains skeptical.
“The Biden administration has constantly attempted to defuse public opprobrium over their indefensible dereliction of duty at the border. Messaging about plans to begin deportations, build more border barrier, and the like are followed up with refusal to enforce federal immigration law, the creation of new illegal parole schemes, and active subversion of state-level efforts to address the effects of the invasion at our border on citizens. Americans are not buying it,” said Chris Russo, president of Texans for Strong Borders.
That “active subversion” of state initiatives – including going to court to sink a marine barrier Texas installed along a section of the Rio Grande – is the kind of retrograde action that Hawley’s bill aims to circumvent.
Beyond the border, the effects of this administration’s passive-aggressive behavior are on display in Adelanto, Calif., where only a handful of migrants are housed in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility designed to hold 2,000. Months after a COVID-19 crowding order was lifted, and amid historic waves of illegal border crossings, ICE has yet to restore Adelanto to normal operations.
As the Biden administration dodges and weaves, Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Jim Pillen became the latest public official to declare, “Every state is a border state.” And building a legal case for more state action, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last month declared “an invasion at our border because of Biden’s policies.”
Even Democrats are complaining. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently wrote to Biden, calling the situation “untenable.”
The federal government’s continuing failure to enforce immigration law raises the question: Could states do worse?