America is under siege by both cartels and our own politicians. Since day one of his presidency Joe Biden has made it clear that he would rather allow cartels to control our border than be vulnerable to political attacks from the left.
As a result, we have experienced the largest border security crisis in modern American history. The Secretary of Homeland Security has perpetuated this crisis through “encounter and release” policies that ignore our laws and put both Americans and the migrants seeking to come here in danger.
Now, House Republicans have a chance to force the President’s hand to end the crisis and reclaim control of our border from cartels. H.R. 29, the Border Safety and Security Act, will immediately reverse these “encounter and release” policies by requiring DHS to instead “detain or turn away.”
This is the border security equivalent of the pandemic-prevention deterrent known as Title 42, which all Republicans have supported – somewhat imprudently – as the solution for the border. It was only a Band-Aid solution during the pandemic and a health policy is not a border policy, but it powers make clear the border solution.
The problem is that the Biden administration has used asylum as the exception to swallow the rule of border security; now hundreds of thousands arrive at our southern border each month.
Secretary Mayorkas has released between 1-2 million illegal migrants into American communities, heavily through an abuse of parole authority which is supposed to be used on a “case-by-case” basis.
We know that in just the first 15 months of the Biden administration, DHS released 836,225 people encountered of the more than 1 million illegal migrants apprehended by CBP not turned away under Title 42 – some 80 percent.
Immediate release of migrants before adjudication of claims is not only a problem in each case, but also represents a “pull-factor” for more illegal migrants. An incomprehensible 4 million migrants have been encountered under the Biden regime, overwhelming border patrol.
Agents have been taken away from patrolling to “processing” and this creates security gaps for cartels to traffic in drugs like fentanyl, which killed at least 72,000 Americans in 2021. More, it has allowed cartels to move some 1 million “got aways” who evade arrest and are often the more dangerous individuals – sometimes affiliated with gangs or terrorist organizations.
We should not accept this. Our laws surrounding asylum were never meant to encourage migrants to make the dangerous journey through hundreds of miles of desert terrain — driven by cartels that are basically terrorists for hire. Our asylum laws were meant to be a last resort for those fleeing legitimate persecution and had no other options — not the blueprint for a human trafficking pipeline.
The Border Safety and Security Act is the solution.
First, the bill provides the Secretary of DHS with the authority to turn away illegal migrants without admissible documentation if the Secretary sees it necessary to obtain operational control of the border. Operational control is not a controversial idea and is already required by the “Secure Fence Act of 2006, which then-Senator Joe Biden and current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer voted for.
Turning away illegal migrants is not a new concept — the public health authority commonly referred to as “Title 42” has allowed DHS to do so since March of 2020. In fact, the Biden administration actually appealed court decisions that would have terminated the policy. Biden’s DHS admits the potential need to turn migrants away because “we anticipate migration levels will increase as smugglers seek to take advantage of and profit from vulnerable migrants once the Title 42 public health order is lifted.”
Further, H.R. 29 will require DHS to use this “turn-away” authority if someone cannot be detained through the pendency of an asylum claim or placed in a program consistent with Migrant Protection Protocols. Current law already requires illegal migrants seeking asylum to be detained through the adjudication of their claim; this closes Biden’s loopholes.
There will be some who spuriously claim this bill would somehow eliminate asylum, and that is flatly false. Those who claim it are either misinformed or seek to misinform. H.R. 29 corrects the abuse of our asylum laws and allows for migrants to claim asylum – which is good for America and good for immigrants. Further, it does not do anything DHS is not already either allowed or even required to do under current law.
From before time of the Declaration of Independence or our Constitution, America has been a refuge for those seeking freedom from oppression. She should remain so. But we cannot allow laws meant to serve the oppressed to create even more oppression in the false name of compassion.
We will never solve this border crisis if Congress is not willing to step in and fix the policies causing it. The Border Safety and Security Act is the single best policy we would put forward to do that today.
Mayra Flores is a former Texas Congresswoman and is now a Senior Fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.