FAIR Fights Senate Border Package, Measure Fails in Key Vote
FAIR Take | February 2024
Only three days after it was released, the Senate border security package negotiated by Sens. James Lankford, Chris Murphy and Krysten Sinema, failed in spectacular fashion on the Senate floor. The border security package had been the missing piece of the President’s broader request for foreign aid ever since early December, when Senate Republicans demanded meaningful border security measures in order to advance the package through the Senate. After weeks of secret negotiations, the text of the border security deal was released last week and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) promptly called for a vote to open debate on the entire package. The vote failed 50-49, with 3 Democrats and 1 Independent opposing the bill. Four Republicans voted to move it forward.
While the bill was hailed as a strong enforcement bill, in reality, it codified bad immigration policy and essentially ratified ongoing illegal immigration at historically high levels. As detailed by FAIR, the bill: (1) leaves existing law in place, under which the Biden Administration has been (illegally) releasing illegal aliens encountered at the border; (2) does nothing to stop the President’s illegal use of parole; (3) creates a whole new, “claim-and-release” process for asylum-seekers that actually encourages asylum abuse; (4) provides limited expulsion authority for a temporary period of time and exempts huge swaths of illegal migrants; and (5) appropriates billions of dollars to NGOs and Homeland Security to continue the administration’s open-borders policies.
Leading up to the vote on the Senate package, debate remained contentious. Key Republicans criticized the secretly negotiated bill because it contains almost nothing from H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act. Other Senators expressed anger that Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) helped Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) negotiate the border security package, all with the backing of Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.), yet both Graham and McConnell voted against moving it forward. Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah) criticized Minority Leader McConnell for signing off on a bill most Republicans opposed, stating “he sure as heck didn’t ‘follow the [Senate GOP’s] instructions,’ as we asked him to lead with a demand for (1) border-security metrics, and (2) the core provisions of HR2.” In a press conference before the vote, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for McConnell to lose his leadership role.
For their part, Senate Democrats accused Republicans of opposing the bill to help former President Donald Trump. Schumer said, “We all know what’s going on here: Donald Trump would rather keep the chaos at the border going so he can exploit it on the campaign trail, instead of letting the Senate do the right thing and fix it.” Schumer was joined in that assessment by leading Democrat negotiators Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Chief Republican negotiator Lankford, one of the only Republicans to vote to move the bill forward, also took swipes at his Republican colleagues, claiming that some have told him “that it’s the wrong time to solve the problem.”
Despite the rhetoric, the simple fact is that the Senate border package would not secure our borders. Rather than offering real policy changes to stop the border crisis, the bill actually codifies catch-and-release policies that encourage asylum abuse and is packed with giveaways to open-borders advocates. First, the bill creates an asylum system that requires all migrants to be released by simply claiming asylum (i.e. release before they are screened by an asylum officer) and grants them work permits almost immediately. Second, the so-called enforcement provisions actually expire after three years and are riddled with exceptions and loopholes. Finally, the bill contains giveaways for open-borders advocates and special interests. It also expands legal immigration by adding 50,000 green cards every year for five years. It also grants work permits to the spouses and children of H-1B workers, allows adult children of H-1B workers to obtain green cards essentially as dependents, legalizes Afghan parolees, and spends billions in taxpayer funding for NGOs to facilitate illegal immigration.
While action appears to have stalled in the Senate, President Biden insists he is powerless to end the border crisis. Only a week before the vote on the Senate package, President Biden told reporters, “I’ve done all I can” to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. Many congressional members, in addition to FAIR, have set forth numerous actions that the Biden Administration can take now to secure the border and stop the crisis it created, including: reinstating the Migrant Protection Protocols to require asylum seekers to remain in Mexico; ceasing all unlawful parole programs; detaining those encountered rather than releasing them; and using authority provided under Section 212(f) of the immigration laws to deny entry of persons when it would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. However, President Biden, and his Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, have refused to even acknowledge that these options exist.
To learn more about H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, and how you can get involved, visit FAIR’s activist toolkit here.