Illegal immigrants by the millions are entering the United States, as Congress is unable to fix loopholes, and President Joe Biden refuses to do so.
Mr. Lankford thought that he, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.)—after four months of arduous closed-door negotiations—had done something that recalled the great compromises that once defined the Senate, while also pleasing conservatives and liberals alike.
Going by their comments, it was as if the Sooner State’s senior senator and Mr. Johnson were reading two entirely different bills.
“The border security bill will put a huge number of new enforcement tools in the hands of a future administration and push the current administration to finally stop the illegal flow. The bill provides funding to build the wall, increase technology at the border, and add more detention beds, more agents, and more deportation flights,” Mr. Lankford said.
He said the bill “ends the abuse of parole … that has waived in over a million people.”
“It dramatically changes our ambiguous asylum laws by conducting fast screenings at a higher standard of evidence, limited appeals, and fast deportation,” he said.
“New bars to asylum eligibility will stop the criminal cartels from exploiting our currently weak immigration laws. The bill also has new emergency authorities to shut down the border when the border is overrun, new hiring authorities to quickly increase officers, and new hearing authorities to quickly apply consequences for illegal crossings. It changes our border from catch-and-release to detain and deport,” he said.
Stating that immigration laws have been weak for years, Mr. Lankford called the bill “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close our open border and give future administrations the effective tools they need to stop the border chaos and protect our nation.”
But the ink had hardly dried on Mr. Lankford’s statement when Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other conservatives in both chambers of Congress and in the advocacy community insisted that the proposal would do nothing of the sort.
Former President Donald Trump effectively ended catch-and-release when he implemented the Remain in Mexico program, requiring illegal immigrants to wait in Mexico until their immigration case had been adjudicated. However, President Biden halted the program the day he took office in 2021.
The second flaw highlighted by Mr. Lee involves the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the president.
“The Secretary of Homeland Security is only required to shut down the border if there are 5,000 average illegal crossings over a consecutive seven-day period or 8,500 in a single day,” Mr. Lee said.
A caveat to that is that the president can “reopen the border any time it is in the ‘national interest to temporarily suspend the border emergency authority’ for up to 45 days.”
Further, the bill “creates a dangerous expansion of parole by saying it can now be granted for anyone the DHS Secretary determines has an ‘urgent humanitarian reason,’ Mr. Lee said. The bill doesn’t require the DHS secretary or president to deport anyone.
The bill allows illegal immigrants to be given work permits as soon as they pass an initial screening by immigration authorities.
The number of available Green Cards is increased 50,000 annually under the new bill.
And, the bill includes a budgeting gimmick whereby $650 million of the funding for continuing to build the border wall begun by President Trump is rescinded, then restored in 2028. Not a single foot of new wall would be built as a result.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) enumerated to The Epoch Times a similar list of deal-killers in the bill.
“The Biden Border Invasion has turned every town into a border town, with thousands of illegal aliens pouring across the border every single day,” he said.
The bill “gives $1.4 billion to NGOs to pay for travel, shelter, and food to facilitate the invasion. Democrat mayors and governors in blue states will force taxpayers to foot the bill,” Mr. Good said.
Jessica Vaughan, policy director for the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Epoch Times that “this bill does not end the catch-and-release policies for illegal migrants; it codifies it. Not only that, it creates a new asylum process to result in faster issuance of work permits and faster approvals for asylum-based green cards.
“And it actually increases chain migration and employment green cards by 50,000 a year for five years—as if we haven’t had enough immigration. It effectively permits a president to wave in as many as 5,000 illegal border crossers every day, and it mandates that the government allow another 1,400 to be waved in every day at the legal entry points. It preserves the parole program for visa-less Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, which is an audacious abuse of executive authority.”
Richard Manning, president of Americans for Limited Government, praised Mr. Johnson for his decisive response to the bill.
“As soon as members of Congress realized that the bill locked in unacceptably high illegal immigration rates while tying the hands of President Trump to fix the problem in 2025, the bill was dead,” he told The Epoch Times.
“Speaker Johnson deserves a great deal of credit in killing it due to his leadership in pushing a border solution which actually addresses the problem, and clearly declaring the Senate legislation dead in the water in the House.”
“This authority is a 5,000 authority to say, if you get to 5,000 [illegals crossing into the U.S.], which we’ve been there every single day except for seven in the last four months, that it completely closes the border down. It deports everyone. It changes the paradigm from right now what the Biden administration is doing is catching and releasing everyone to actually catching and deporting everyone. It literally flips the script on it,” Mr. Lankford said.
He didn’t mention the caveat in which the president can override that requirement.
Mr. Lankford’s pleas were to no avail, and on Feb. 7, a motion to end debate on the proposal fell 11 votes short of the needed 60 votes, thus, at least for the moment, killing the border bill. Several Democrats joined Republicans in killing the motion.
“Republicans went from ‘we demand border policy changes’ to ’no policy is needed.‘ They went from ’we need time to look at this bill‘ to ’dead-on-arrival‘ in less than 24 hours. They went from ’the border is a crisis right now’ to ‘it can wait till November’ in the blink of an eye … Donald Trump ordered Republicans to kill the bipartisan border bill,” Ms. Murray said.
Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said after the vote that “Donald Trump wants chaos. Donald Trump does not want success at the border.”
Mr. Lee responded to the Democrats’ charge, telling The Epoch Times that “since December, the entire Senate Republican Conference has demanded real border security for America before sending another penny to Ukraine.
“After weeks of secret negotiations, we were handed a bill that not only fails to secure our border but would make the crisis of illegal immigration even worse.”
The Utah Republican said “we oppose this fake deal because it is lousy policy, and our Democratic colleagues are simply mad that we didn’t fall for it.”
The reality facing both parties, according to GOP campaign strategist Jimmy Keady, is that Americans want the border fixed now, not later.
“Immigration is the topic of conversation at dinner tables across this country. Many see this legislation as not going far enough and one that prolongs the problem,” Mr. Keady told The Epoch Times.
“We are hearing this in races across the country up and down the ballot. Americans want solutions and they want accountability. Immigration is going to be the issue to campaign on this cycle, and any legislation that does not immediately address the problem is going to be tough to pass through,” he said.