White House says ICE will reduce deportations, detention capacity if Republicans don’t pass border bill

The White House on Thursday announced that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will soon be “forced” to reduce operations at the southern border due to lack of funds.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that because Republicans have not passed the bipartisan border security agreement with funding for Israel and Ukraine, the administration is left with no choice but to pull back from the border.

“Because congressional Republicans are choosing partisan politics over our national security and refusing to pass the bipartisan national security agreement that includes significant border reforms and funding, over the coming weeks, ICE will be forced to reduce operations because of budget shortfalls,” Jean-Pierre said during a gaggle on Air Force One.

“We have asked Congress for additional funding and resources, and every time Congress has provided less than we asked for, or most recently, completely ignored our supplemental request,” she said.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during a daily news briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on February 6, 2024 in Washington, DC.  (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The announcement that ICE will reduce enforcement operations comes after U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 3.2 million encounters with illegal immigrants at the border, the highest ever recorded.

Jean-Pierre said that without additional appropriations, “ICE would be forced to reduce its removal operations, its total detention capacity and more.” 

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Migrants crossing the border into Texas

An aerial view shows an immigrant group passing cross water and barbed wires and walking to US – Mexico border in El Paso, Texas, United States on February 1, 2024. The White House on Thursday announced that ICE will be forced to reduce enforcement operations due to budgetary constraints.  (Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“When ICE can’t conduct these operations, our national security and public safety will be harmed. Speaker Johnson and congressional Republicans should be held accountable. This was their choice,” she said.

The bipartisan border security bill Jean-Pierre referenced, negotiated by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Krysten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Chris Muprhy, D-Conn., has drawn backlash from more than 20 GOP senators since its release, who argue it would not stem the historic levels of illegal migrant crossings. Several Democrats also oppose the bill, saying it would hurt migrants seeking asylum. 

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Texas border, migrants

Immigrants wait to be processed at a U.S. Border Patrol transit center after they crossed the border from Mexico on December 20, 2023 in Eagle Pass, Texas. A late-year surge of migrants crossing the U.S.southern border has overwhelmed U.S. immigration officials. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The border agreement was tied to funding for Israel and Ukraien in a $118 billion national security supplemental package. The immigration portion of the bill includes heightened asylum restrictions and gives President Biden the authority to suspend the bill on an emergency basis.

The emergency bill introduces a new three-year authority, akin to COVID-era Title 42, enabling officials to shut down entries into the U.S. at the southern border. 

This provision occurs when there is a seven-day average of 5,000 daily encounters or 8,500 in a single day. DHS must then expel all migrants, except unaccompanied children, until encounters drop at least 25% for seven consecutive days, with a 14-day deadline for ending the authority.

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However, the bill states that if the president “finds that it is in the national interest to temporarily suspend the border emergency authority, the President may direct the Secretary to suspend use of the border emergency authority on an emergency basis.” Essentially, the “border emergency” triggered at 5,000 crossings per day within a week can be overturned by Biden.

House Republicans, including Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., have declared the bill “dead on arrival,'” arguing that the 5,000 daily crossings threshold is an invitation for illegal immigration, not a deterrent. 

Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Fox News Digital’s Jamie Joseph and Adam Shaw contributed to this report. 

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