President Joe Biden has provided “record funding” for securing the southern border and is “doing everything that he can to deal with the border” while House Republicans are “trying to politicize it and make it worse,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
The assertions Monday by Biden’s spokesperson came after major Democrats, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and former President Bill Clinton, have criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported that encounters with illegal aliens at the southern border in September exceeded 260,000, the highest figure ever reported.
Below is an unpacking of some of Jean-Pierre’s claims.
During Monday’s press briefing at the White House, Jean-Pierre defended Biden’s record on border security.
“You have a president who has delivered record funding—record funding to make sure that we have additional—record additional Border Patrol, federal employees at the border,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “This is something that he has done and has delivered on.”
However, funding is less important than priorities, Lora Ries, who directs The Heritage Foundation’s Border Security and Immigration Center, told The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Ries noted that Border Patrol agents admittedly have become “processing coordinators” during the Biden administration.
In March, then-Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified before the House Homeland Security Committee.
“For a long time, investments to support border security operations have been structured around a three-legged stool—personnel, infrastructure, and technology,” Ortiz told lawmakers. “But changing conditions require a fourth leg, which is a processing enterprise. In just the last few years did we really start to invest in that fourth leg. The processing enterprise is critical in addressing challenges and we are making significant investments to include Border Patrol processing coordinators.”
This change is not providing security, Heritage’s Ries said.
“The Biden administration misuses border agents to process millions of illegal aliens into the U.S,” Ries told The Daily Signal, adding: “Americans want actual homeland security, not the insecurity that the Biden administration has brought us.”
‘Enforcement … Deterrence … Diplomacy’
On Monday, Jean-Pierre framed the Biden administration as having been successful on border security, based on “three things he moved forward.”
“There’s enforcement, and so we’ve deployed additional troops and federal agents to the border and removed or returned more than 250,000 individuals since May 12 alone,” the White House press secretary said.
“And deterrence—we’ve had the largest expansion certainly of a pathways to—pathways to—pathways in decades,” she said, apparently searching for a phrase such as “pathways to citizenship for illegal aliens.”
“And we’ve made clear that attempting to cross the border unlawfully will result in prompt removal, a five-year ban on—on reentry, and potential criminal prosecution,” Jean-Pierre said.
“And let’s not forget the diplomacy that we have done with the region, including Mexico, to deal with this issue,” she added. “Because it’s not—this is a—this is a regional issue that we’re seeing with—as it relates—as it relates to—as it relates to unlawful migration.”
However, success at the border isn’t yet apparent, the Biden administration’s critics say.
Even before the one-month record in September for encounters with illegal aliens, at least 5.8 million illegal immigrants had entered the country since Biden took office in January 2021, according to House Republicans, citing numbers compiled by the Department of Homeland Security. Of those, about 1.6 million migrants evaded arrest.
The unlawful influx of 5.8 million migrants under Biden is larger than the population of 29 states.
The jump in illegal immigration under Biden has led to increased use of the drug fentanyl, which now is the leading cause of death for Americans ages 18 to 45. Human smuggling cartels also are raking in $13 billion per year, The New York Times reported in July.
In May, the House passed a bill called the Secure the Border Act, aimed at enforcing border security and immigration laws. The bill, also known as HR 2, would require the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to use previously appropriated but unexpired funding to resume construction of the border wall.
Upon taking office, Biden stopped building the extended barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border begun by his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The legislation—if the Senate joined the House in passing it—would increase spending on border technology such as advanced surveillance sensors and drones. The bill also called for more transparency from the Department of Homeland Security, requiring monthly reporting on border security data such as the number of known “gotaways” and suspected terrorists.
The House-passed bill also would increase staffing for the Border Patrol and authorize grants to state and local law enforcement to address problems tied to illegal immigration.
The White House issued a statement vowing that Biden would veto the House bill if it reached his desk. The Democrat-controlled Senate has not taken up the bill.
‘Extreme House Republicans … Want to Defund DHS’
Jean-Pierre blamed House Republicans for funding issues related to border security, specifying the Department of Homeland Security.
“These extreme House Republicans—what did they do?” she asked reporters rhetorically. “They just passed, two weeks ago, a—proposed cutting [of] DHS funding by 8%. They’re the ones who are saying that they want to defund DHS.”
Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee issued a report in June that supported more funding for border security.
“For the last two years,” the committee report says, “migrant encounters have skyrocketed, straining U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and officers in the field. In lieu of managing the crisis at the border through the use of temporary and costly measures that have minimal impact on illicit migration flows, this bill includes long-term border security investments that seek to increase the agency’s ability to deter would-be illicit border activity.”
The report continues:
The bill recommends $856,757,000 above the request level for CBP [Customs and Border Protection] operations, including $496,260,000 for additional U.S. Border Patrol personnel to bring total end strength to 22,000 agents, and $35,000,000 for innovative technology. Within the funds provided, the bill recommends not less than the following: $43,988,000 for workforce care; $6,000,000 for carrizo cane control; $21,000,000 for autonomous surveillance towers; $18,500,000 for tactical aerostats; and $10,440,000 for cross-border tunnel threat detection.
Within CBP’s Procurement, Construction, and Improvements account, the recommendation includes $2,246,512,000 above the request for new physical barriers and border security technology both at and between the ports of entry.
In June, this language was part of an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security and wasn’t related to the lawmakers’ continuing resolution to fund the government into November, which Biden’s press secretary talked about Monday.
“What I’m saying is that the president, without the help—without the help of Republicans, is doing everything that he can to deal with the border,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “That’s what he’s been able to do, while Republicans tried to push forth a CR [continuing resolution] to limit—to take away the federal—the federal agents that we see at the border. That’s what he’s trying to do.”
In both cases, however, House Republicans’ appropriations bills have shifted funding priorities to enforcement of immigration law and cut funding for Biden’s looser border priorities.
“Biden ‘dealing with the border’ has meant erasing the border,” said Ries, a former acting deputy chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security. “So he doesn’t get to be the arsonist and then criticize opponents for trying to put out the fire.”
“An additional dollar without policy changes continues the current insecurity,” she added. “That’s why it is imperative the Senate pass the policy changes in HR 2.”
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