Democrats Ram through Immigration Bills as Border Crisis Worsens
FAIR Take | April 2021
On April 21, House Democrats passed two immigration bills that do nothing to address the out-of-control situation at our southwest border. Even worse, these two bills may actually lead to a worsening of the crisis by burdening U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), exacerbating already significant threats to national security, and overwhelming our immigration courts.
FAIR opposed both bills aggressively and will include both votes in our annual Congressional Voting Report. The House previously passed both bills in July 2020 during the 116th Congress.
H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, makes it virtually impossible for presidents to restrict the entry of potential national security threats. The bill’s authors wrote this piece of legislation based on the canard that travel restrictions imposed by former President Trump, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, were based on religious discrimination rather than on risk assessments made by the State Department and intelligence agencies. The bill makes several disturbing changes to the President’s 212(f) authority. This includes stripping the President’s ability to determine if classes of aliens represent a threat to the United States.
The NO BAN Act passed by a vote of 218-208. No Democrats voted against the bill, and only one Republican – Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) – voted in favor of it. The NO BAN Act passed in the previous Congress by a vote of 233-183.
House Democrats also voted against a Republican motion-to-recommit (MTR) that would delay implementation of the bill until a policy is in place requiring migrants released from CBP custody to obtain a negative COVID-19 test before being permitted to board a domestic flight in the United States. Democrats are now on record accepting the release of migrants into the United States without first screening them for COVID-19.
The second bill, H.R. 1573, the so-called Access to Counsel Act, further paralyzes our immigration courts, negatively impacts CBP’s efficiency and operational capacity, and pads the wallets of activist, open borders immigration lawyers. This bill guarantees that anyone selected for secondary inspection at a port of entry has an opportunity to retain a lawyer. Enacting these restrictions on CBP would significantly slow down travel at the border, burden CBP and reduce their operational effectiveness. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that implementing the requirements of this bill will cost taxpayers $700 million – money that could go to just about anything else. Even worse, the actual effects of this bill would enrich immigration lawyers, their firms, and zealous open borders “advocacy” organizations seeking to dismantle enforcement at the border.
The Access to Counsel Act passed by a vote of 217-207. The House passed this bill on a strictly partisan basis: no Republicans voted in favor of H.R. 1573, and no Democrats voted against it. By comparison, the Access to Counsel Act passed in the previous Congress by a vote of 231-184.
It is outrageous that the House passed both of these bills despite the current crisis as the southern border. In floor remarks, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) blasted Democrats for doing so. McCarthy said that “instead of voting on legislation that does nothing to address the crisis, it's time for Democrats to work with Republicans to craft substantive legislation that prioritizes American citizens and enhances our national security. It's time to end the Biden Border Crisis.”
Both bills now head to the Senate, where it is unlikely that majority leader Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) can find 60 votes necessary to pass both bills. Given the stalemate in the Senate, we are confident that both bills will not advance any further.