Congress Squandered Opportunity to Secure the Border, As Budget Deadline Approached
The end of the fiscal year provided Congress the perfect opportunity to bring the raging border crisis under control. For a brief moment it appeared that they would respond. In the days leading up to the September 30 deadline, the House of Representatives approved an FY 2024 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Recognizing that they could no longer hand the Biden administration a blank check to subvert border and immigration enforcement, the DHS spending measure included key provisions of H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, which passed in the House in May.
The FY 2024 DHS funding bill approved by the House included many provisions that FAIR has been advocating for (See page 2). The bill:
- Provided over $2 billion for construction of a physical wall along the southwest border;
- Increased funding to support a record high of 22,000 Border Patrol agents;
- Restored funding for border security technology, including for towers, aerostats, counter drones and new innovative technology;
- Funded ICE’s ability to detain up to 41,500 aliens on a given day (up from 25,000) and provides over $3.5 billion for custody operations;
- Prohibited funding for the CBP One mobile application that is facilitating the entry of illegal aliens at the border;
- Instructed ICE to continue to utilize the 287(g) program to allow state and local law enforcement to help in enforcing our immigration laws;
- Required the Secretary to prioritize detention and requires that aliens enrolled in Alternatives to Detention be monitored by GPS throughout the duration of their proceedings; and
- Prohibited the administration from implementing a Biden rule to allow asylum officers to make final asylum determinations.
Also significant is what the DHS funding bill did not include. A FAIR-led coalition of public interest groups succeeded in removing two damaging guest worker provisions, relating to the H-2A and H-2B visa programs, which would have dramatically expanded the programs and harmed American workers. Specifically, those provisions would have 1) removed the seasonal or temporary requirement from the H-2A program, allowing visa holders to work year-round, and 2) exempted “returning workers” from the annual H-2B visa cap.
Facing a potential government shutdown on October 1, because the Democratic-led Senate had not approved a single appropriations bill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also introduced a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government functioning while a final FY 2024 budget deal was worked out. The CR he put before the House also included strong border enforcement language and some of the budget reductions many of his Republican members had demanded. That CR was rejected by 21 Republican members who believed the spending cuts did not go far enough.
As a result, the speaker then introduced a “clean” CR that continued government funding at FY 2023 levels through November 17. This CR included no border and immigration enforcement language and no spending cuts. That measure was approved with the strong support of House Democrats. A day later, just hours before the midnight deadline, the Democratic-led Senate happily approved the House’s CR that allows President Biden and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to continue their open-borders agenda, and actually provides them the opportunity to abuse our immigration laws to help facilitate the entry of illegal aliens.
This squandered opportunity to enact meaningful border enforcement requirements took place against the backdrop of a worsening situation at the border. Only a week before the vote on the original House CR, DHS released new data showing that August set a single-month record for border encounters, and preliminary data indicated that September was on pace to shatter that dubious record.
The CR that was approved gives Congress 45 days to pass legislation that will fund the federal government through September 30, 2024. During that time, FAIR will be working to educate the American public about what is at stake as Congress goes through the appropriations process. Given the magnitude of the Biden Border Disaster, the lost opportunity to include border enforcement language in the CR will add to the damage already done.
Moving forward, FAIR is committed to representing the interests of the American people.