Strong Immigration Enforcement Bill Set to Be Voted on by the House or Representatives
Editor’s note: This edition of the FAIR newsletter was completed before a final vote on The Secure the Border Act of 2023 was held in the House of Representatives. The outcome of that vote will be reported in the June edition of this newsletter.
Addressing the worsening illegal immigration crisis was a top priority for the new Republican House majority. During the first few months of the 118th Congress, various House committees held hearings in Washington and around the country to assess the impact of the Biden administration’s blatant efforts to throw open our borders and all but eliminate enforcement of U.S. immigration laws.
With the information-gathering phase completed, House leaders began making good on their promise to enact legislation designed to address the crisis and hold the Biden administration accountable. In April, two key House committees approved strong bills to remedy the unprecedented surge of illegal immigration. Those two bills, along with another one considered by the Foreign Affairs Committee, were combined into one bill, H.R. 2, The Secure the Border Act of 2023.
In the months leading up to the introduction of these bills, FAIR worked closely with key members of Congress to craft legislation that both addresses loopholes in our laws that were being exploited and limits the ability of the administration to ignore or abuse their authorities. FAIR also joined with a broad coalition of organizations in supporting passage of H.R. 2.
Judiciary Committee Bill
The first committee to advance legislation was the House Judiciary Committee, which approved H.R. 2640, the Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Act of 2023, on April 20. The final vote, 23-15, fell essentially along party lines, with one Republican voting with Democrats against the bill. It now awaits action by the full House of Representatives, where it is expected to be approved.
The needed reforms mandated in the bill include provisions that would:
- Reform our asylum process to deter frivolous claims and prohibit gang members, felons and drunk drivers from benefiting from our asylum system;
- Prohibit the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) secretary from releasing illegal aliens apprehended at our border, strengthening our ability to detain, remove and return those aliens;
- Prevent surges of unaccompanied alien children at the border in a humanitarian way, ensuring they are processed expeditiously with family members and sent home;
- Increase penalties for individuals who overstay their visas;
- Significantly limit the secretary’s authority to grant 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.
The Judiciary bill is aimed at ending the key magnets that have led to the explosion: The ease with which people can abuse our asylum process; the high probability of release into the United States pending a hearing many years in the future; and the incentive to use children – either unaccompanied, or as part of a family unit – to gain entry to the United States. It would also bar this and future administrations from asserting virtually unlimited authority to parole to admit otherwise inadmissible aliens to the country.
Homeland Security Committee Bill
Four days after the Judiciary Committee approved its bill, the Homeland Security Committee unveiled a bill that would deliver much needed resources to secure our southern border.
H.R. 2794, The Border Reinforcement Act, adds manpower, technology and physical infrastructure needed to regain control of our borders. It would require that money dedicated to border enforcement be used for just that — not for processing, releasing and flying illegal migrants around the country, as the Biden administration has been doing. The bill also requires DHS to collect and disseminate vital information about the people who are encountered crossing the border illegally.
Among the key provisions of the Border Reinforcement Act:
- Requires DHS to resume construction of the border security wall along no less than 900 miles of our southern border.
- Requires that DHS increase manpower to a total of 22,000 Border Patrol agents.
- Provides additional technology at border ports of entry to detect and prevent the entry of narcotics, contraband and illegal migrants.
- Significantly adds aerial and ground technology to surveil the entire southern border.
- Limits the use of DHS’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection One phone app to inspection of perishable cargo only.
H.R. 2794 was approved by the full Homeland Security Committee and was merged with the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee bills to form H.R. 2. The combined bill focuses on cutting off incentives to illegal immigration by providing the resources necessary to secure our borders and ensuring that people are expeditiously removed or detained
The Homeland Security bill also provides a preview of the budgetary process for FY 2024. Government funding bills originate in the House and the ones dealing with border and immigration enforcement must be written in a way that ensures that the Biden administration cannot redirect funds to carry out its open-borders agenda.
Realistically, the House bills are unlikely to gain the 60 votes necessary to be approved in the Democratic controlled Senate, much less avoid a veto by President Biden. Nevertheless, the bills provide an important framework that give the American public a clear idea of what can be done to secure our borders and restore integrity to our asylum process. The bills force the Senate leadership and the White House to explain to the American people why they oppose sensible legislation that protects the interests and security of the nation.