Senate Border Security Bill Expected This Week
FAIR Take | January 2024
The Senate Working Group leading negotiations over what border security measures to include in the Biden Administration’s $106 billion foreign aid supplemental request is nearing agreement on a deal. However, early details of the deal, as reported in the press, indicate that negotiators have settled on limited border security measures and multiple giveaways to open borders advocates.
The Senate deal is finally materializing after weeks of negotiations. Leading negotiators resumed meeting as the Senate reconvened in January, with Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sitting down with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Tasked with representing Republican priorities in the negotiations, Lankford has counselled patience, while at the time rejecting calls by House Members to incorporate H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, into the foreign aid package. Instead, Lankford has sought the middle ground: “I’m going to have a whole group of folks that say, ‘Not enough.’ I’m going to have a whole group of folks saying, ‘That’s crazy, that’s way too much.’”
Unfortunately, the details of the forthcoming bill, as leaked to the press, indicate that the Senate plan is not a credible solution to the border crisis. This is because it does not fully stop the abuse of parole or end the mass catch and release of illegal aliens. Moreover, it is unclear whether the bill makes any meaningful reforms to our asylum system. An expulsion provision similar to Title 42 is included, but will only be triggered once 5,000 aliens per day, averaged out over seven days, have already entered the U.S. Similarly, the bill authorizes thousands more detention beds, but will not force the Biden administration to use them. Other provisions, like adding 50,000 green cards annually or giving work permits to the adult children of H-1B workers, have nothing to do with border security and are simply a hand-out to special interests.
The emerging deal has sparked concern among many on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) came out against the deal Saturday. Johnson’s position on the Senate deal echoes his statements after Republicans’ January border trip that without the key H.R. 2 provisions, “we’re not going to solve the problem.” Several House Freedom Caucus members also came out strongly against a watered-down package, with Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) saying that it would incentivize more illegal aliens to cross the border. Following the backlash, Sen. Lankford issued an apparent denial of the reports’ accuracy and encouraged people to read the bill text, which is not yet public.
Lankford has been able to maintain some support among Senate colleagues and Republican leadership. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised him in a Senate lunch last Wednesday. In that meeting, McConnell argued that Lankford was negotiating a good deal and encouraged Republicans to support it. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sounded a more cautious note, concluding that any border security measures would have to rely on the Biden Administration to enforce them, but that “there is some benefit longer-term to making changes in border security that then could be enforced by the next president.”
Congressional Democrats and President Biden continue to claim support for a bipartisan package on border security but so far have refused to consider critical policy changes. Speaking on Saturday, Biden stated, “I think we have to make major changes at the border. I’ve been pushing it. I’m prepared to make significant alterations at the border.” However, Biden has refused to call it a crisis and measures to stop the mass catch-and-release of illegal aliens and abuse of parole authority remain off the table. On parole, chief Democrat negotiator Chris Murphy said last week, “We’re not interested in taking away tools that have a proven track record of success.”
Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Mayorkas is facing impeachment in the House for violating his oath of office and illegal border crossings skyrocketing. Despite border encounters totaling a record 3.2 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2023, and broken monthly and daily encounter records last year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed only 142,580 illegal aliens. Making the situation even worse, Mayorkas told Border Patrol agents last week that more than 85 percent of illegal aliens encountered are being released into the country.
As border conditions deteriorate, Americans are losing patience with the Biden Administration and the lack of action to solve the crisis. The House has already acted by passing H.R. 2 nearly a year ago. That bill has since failed to move in the Senate. Without reforms to our asylum policy, detention and removal of illegal aliens, and an end to the abuse of parole, the chaos at our borders and in our cities will only grow more dire. Throwing more money at the Biden Administration’s border crisis won’t solve it and neither will weak bills that maintain the status quo. What is needed now, and what the American people are rightfully demanding, are real policy changes to secure our borders and enforce our immigration laws.
To learn more about H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, and how you can get involved, visit FAIR’s activist toolkit here.