Shutdown Averted but Congress Leaves the Border in Chaos
FAIR Take | November 2023
Last Wednesday, Congressional leaders in the House and Senate agreed on something – keep the government open and kick the can down the road on solving the Biden Border Crisis. Congress finished its business before the 11th hour and passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded until after the new year. However, the deal – orchestrated by House Republican leadership – fails to do anything to secure the border and stop the surge of illegal aliens wreaking havoc on American communities.
The deal adopted a novel approach, developed by the new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), creating two separate funding deadlines for government agencies. Funding for some departments and agencies will expire on January 19, 2024, while funding for others, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will expire on February 2, 2024.
But despite its structure, the continuing resolution simply maintains Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending levels, without any real policy measures to stop mass illegal immigration. It does nothing to end the mass catch-and-release of illegal aliens, stop asylum abuse, or limit the abuse of parole. In short, the funding bill simply reinforces the status quo.
The failure of Congress to act on immigration comes at a critical moment for our national security. In the past few weeks, top experts issued dire warnings of terror threats posed by our wide-open borders. Recent government data shows that a record 172 individuals on the terror watchlist had been apprehended by the Border Patrol illegally crossing into the country in FY23 alone. Hostile nationals and their proxy terror groups have openly threatened the American people in recent months. And over 70,000 Special Interest Aliens were encountered by U.S. border agents between October 2021 and October 2023, including 6,386 Afghans, 3,153 Egyptians, 659 Iranians, and 538 Syrians.
Further, in October, encounters of aliens entering the country illegally once again exceeded 300,000. This is on top of the more than 3.2 million illegal aliens that were encountered last fiscal year alone, and the more than 1.7 million “gotaways” that evaded the Border Patrol. Congress has about 75 days before government funding expires again, and in that time, at the current rate, nearly one million more migrants will illegally enter the U.S.
Before the vote last Wednesday, FAIR issued stern warnings that funding alone would not solve the crisis and that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas should not be allowed to waste more taxpayer money to process and release illegal aliens into American communities. FAIR also argued that Congress must be held accountable for its failure to stop the border crisis. House Republicans have now squandered a full year of their two-year control without passing a budget to force the Administration to end its reckless immigration policies. Halting the Biden Border Crisis was an explicit promise made last year when Republicans asked American voters to entrust them with leadership of the House.
The Senate, meanwhile, has refused to put forward any solutions. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that immigration policy changes are “non-starters.” Fortunately, Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) has laid down his marker and said that policy changes – not just more money — must be part of any package. On the floor, McConnell said, “It’s hard to ignore the crisis on our southern border. It has erupted under Washington Democrats’ watch.” McConnell continued to say that Democrats are not ready to seriously address the issues driving the border crisis.
A small group in the Senate is currently working on a border security package, but that package fails to adequately reform our asylum system or address the surge of unaccompanied children that are being encountered or trafficked into the country. Meanwhile, Congress has now adjourned until November 28th, at which time they could return to Washington to consider the President’s supplemental budget request to provide over $13.6 billion for Israel, Ukraine and DHS.
As part of that supplemental request, Congress must ensure that our borders are secured, and policy changes are implemented to stop the flood of illegal immigration. FAIR plans to push hard for policy changes that will strengthen border security and will remain on the front line to ensure Americans are prioritized in any spending package. The message: House leadership must insist that H.R. 2 be included in any spending package moving forward, and the Biden Administration and Senate Democrats must commit to real border and immigration enforcement.