The House Approves the Secure the Border Act, the Most Significant Immigration Legislation in Nearly 30 Years
On May 11, the same day that the Biden administration abandoned Title 42, the House of Representatives approved landmark legislation that would end the crisis at the border, created by the Biden administration’s policies. H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, passed by a vote of 219 to 213, fulfilling a promise made by the House leadership to address the worsening situation at the border.
During the first few months of 2023, Members of Congress, mostly from the House majority, visited the border. They have seen parents carry their children on their backs, young people thirsty and tired as they hike through the sun, and families trying to stick together through debris and rough terrain. Several committees held field hearings in border communities where they heard testimony from local leaders and residents about the impact that the Biden Border Crisis is having on their lives. Other hearings focused on the impact of the illegal immigration crisis on cities and states all across the country.
FAIR worked actively with key members of Congress, lending expertise as the various committees with oversight of immigration policy crafted bills that were eventually folded into H.R. 2, the bill that ultimately was approved by the House. In the days leading up to the House vote FAIR, along with a broad coalition of public interest organizations, wrote a letter of support urging the congressional leadership to approve the bill.
Passage of H.R. 2 could not have been more timely. More than 7 million people have illegally entered the United States since President Biden took office, and things are only likely to get worse now that he has ended Title 42 authority to swiftly expel illegal aliens. Every other mechanism for the prompt removal of illegal migrants was summarily canceled or sabotaged in the first days and weeks of the president’s term. Moreover, the Biden administration utterly failed to devise a workable plan to deter or cope with even greater numbers of illegal border-crossers for the aftermath of Title 42, even though they have known for two years that this public health provision would come to an end. In the president’s own words, his administration expected that situation at the border would be “chaotic.”
Unlike the administration’s capitulation to chaos, H.R. 2 provides a forceful response to the crisis that would restore order and integrity to our borders. The Secure the Border Act provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the manpower, infrastructure and technology it needs, but also includes statutory reforms to deter people from coming here illegally.
Key provisions of H.R. 2 that would:
- Resume construction of the border wall;
- Add thousands more Border Patrol agents, provide them needed resources, and give them bonuses for working night and day to keep our nation safe;
- Provide additional technology at border ports of entry to detect and prevent the entry of narcotics, contraband and illegal migrants;
- Reform our asylum process to deter frivolous claims and prohibit gang members, felons, and drunk drivers from benefiting from our asylum system;
- End catch-and-release by strengthening our ability to detain, remove, and return migrants who are ineligible for asylum to their home country or another safe country;
- Prevent surges of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in a humanitarian way, ensuring they are screened and processed expeditiously and returned to family members in their home countries. Too often, UACs are being placed in the custody of the criminal organizations that smuggle them into the United States;
- End the DHS Secretary’s expansive (ab)use of humanitarian parole, so that broad, category-based parole programs cannot be established to circumvent Congress; and
- Mandate the use of E-Verify for all employers in a responsible, phased-in way.
While passage of H.R. 2 in the House is a huge victory for the effort to secure our borders and restore integrity to our asylum process, it still faces significant hurdles in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Nevertheless, Senate refusal to act on a bill that accomplishes what the vast majority of American voters want to see at the border places the leadership of that chamber in the unenviable position of having to defend the status quo. Many vulnerable Senate Democrats will be on the ballot in 2024, which could turn up the pressure on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Despite the difficulties in that chamber, FAIR will continue to work with allies on Capitol Hill and with citizens around the country to urge the Senate to act on H.R. 2, as the border crisis rages on.