Border hawks blast GOP dissenters for not supporting bill to crack down on illegal immigration

A group of prominent border hawks who formerly served in senior roles within the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday pointed the finger not only at the Biden administration for the ongoing crisis at the southern border but also at Republican lawmakers for not doing enough despite tough rhetoric. “It shocks me that a border security bill hasn’t been introduced that would get full Republican support,” said Mark Morgan, who served as chief of Border Patrol and acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “It should have been HR 1 [the first bill of the new Congress].” Morgan was one of the border experts on a press call hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., where he and colleagues called out Republicans for not doing more on border security. They especially targeted a small number of GOP lawmakers for obstructing a bill designed to address the historic flow of illegal immigrants into the country under the Biden administration. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, introduced the Border Safety and Security Act, or H.R. 29, which would require the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to turn away illegal immigrants who present themselves at the border “during any period when DHS cannot detain such an individual or return the individual to a foreign country.” The legislation is designed to relieve the pressure at overwhelmed detention centers along the southern border and prevent the mass release of migrants into the U.S. STATE OF THE UNION 2023: BORDER OFFICIALS TAKE AIM AT BIDEN’S ‘MADDENING’ REMARKS ON MIGRANT CRISIS “It’s a commonsense bill that requires the Biden administration to enforce the law, has consequences for those who violate it, and ends catch and release,” said Morgan. “It doesn’t include everything but at least puts us a step in the right direction.” Catch and release refers to the practice of releasing an illegal immigrant into the U.S. while they await immigration court hearings rather than holding them in detention. Some Republicans — especially Reps. Don Bacon, Neb., Tony Gonzales, Texas, and Maria Elvira Salazar, Fla. — have criticized and held up the bill from moving forward, drawing the ire of border hawks. “I have to say Gonzales before the election and him now is a stark 180,” said Lora Ries, who spent several years serving in various roles at DHS. “This seems to be a power move for him in the House. And I’ve got to say, the people of Texas, the people of America deserve a lot better. They were lied to.” BIDEN ADMIN REMOVING MOST SURVEILLANCE BALLOONS AT SOUTHERN BORDER DUE TO COST: SOURCES Gonzales argues his objections to H.R. 29 are substantive, not political. “H.R. 29 is all hat and no cattle. It would essentially prevent legal asylum claims such as migrants fleeing religious or political persecution from a safe haven in the United States,” he told Fox News Digital. “Not only is this radical position un-American; it would worsen our border crisis and incentivize human smugglers to continue sneaking people into our country illegally. Instead of messaging on a bill that has 0.00% chance of passing into law we should fix the root problems of our broken immigration system.” Ries, Morgan, and Tom Homan, former acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was also on the call, rejected the notion that the bill would prevent legal, legitimate asylum. Under U.S. law, in order to receive asylum, individuals leaving their own country are supposed to show past persecution or well-founded fear of future persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. However, the Heritage experts argued that, with the encouragement of the Biden administration’s rhetoric and policies, the system is being exploited by millions of economic migrants who may be fleeing hardship but don’t meet the bar of asylum. Soaring asylum cases have led to a record years-long backlog in U.S. immigration courts. REP. ROY INTRODUCES BILL TO BLOCK ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AS HOUSE GOP FIRES UP BORDER PUSH Gonzales introduced his own border security bill last month after becoming the lone GOP congressman from Texas not to endorse a proposed border security framework focused on resurrecting many of the policies of the Trump administration. His legislation would boost funding to a grant program “that allows local law enforcement to augment border patrol efforts at the southern border.” However, the ex-DHS officials said that, while more funding helps, the current border crisis is the result of policy changes since President Biden entered office, not a lack of money. “Some Republicans just want to throw resources at the problem and call it solved,” said Morgan. “The disaster at the border isn’t due to a lack of resources but policy changes. We need more resources, but just throwing resources at the border without different policy isn’t a solution.” Ries, Morgan, and Homan all noted House Republicans’ “Commitment to America,” which laid out a policy agenda if the GOP retook the House in the midterm elections, calls for ending catch and release. The Heritage Foundation was one of several groups that signed a letter organized by border hawks and former Trump administration officials demanding House Republicans keep their campaign promises contained in the Commitment to America by passing H.R. 29 and other strong border security measures. Fox News Digital first reported on the letter earlier this week. BORDER HAWKS SAY FAILURE TO PASS BORDER SECURITY BILL WOULD BETRAY GOP ‘COMMITMENT TO AMERICA’ Some GOP holdouts have said they’re concerned not just about the substance of the bill but the process by which it goes through Congress.  “My primary goal is to have this bill go through committee and regular order, so that all members of the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees can review and improve it as needed,” Bacon told Fox News Digital earlier this week. “Some critics have said the bill could totally shut down asylum requests. I’m not sure that is the case, which is why this bill needs to go through the regular process. This new majority has agreed to regular order, and we shouldn’t deviate from that in the first few weeks of this new Congress.” Bacon added that “real conservatives respect regular order” and “fought to make that a reality in this Congress.” Border hawks countered that action is needed now given the scale of the border crisis. “Illegal immigration isn’t a victimless crime,” said Homan. “A third of the women who make the journey and use cartels are sexually assaulted. We see the number of deaths on the southern border right around 1,700 since Joe Biden became president, which is a record.” DHS SECRETARY MAYORKAS HAS VIOLATED OATH OF OFFICE, MUST BE IMPEACHED, HERITAGE FOUNDATION ARGUES Homan explained that due to an overwhelming number of illegal immigrants entering the country, well over 50% of agents are often pulled off guarding the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border to process, care for, and transfer migrants, leaving huge gaps for cartels and smugglers to exploit. Since Biden entered office, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of people who have crossed the southern border illegally. The figure reached a record 2.38 million illegal crossings encountered by U.S. authorities in fiscal year 2022 (which ended Sept. 30) and a record 251,487 just in December, the latest month for which data’s available, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. There has been over 200,000 such migrant encounters for 10 months straight. “When you create a crisis this big, it creates other issues,” said Homan, who described how drug smuggling and sex trafficking across the border has surged as a result. Under the Biden administration, about 1.2 million illegal immigrant “gotaways” are known to have evaded U.S. authorities. Border Patrol has also arrested dozens of suspected terrorists and over this time and thousands of people with criminal convictions, according to border agents.  Earlier this week, Heritage released a report, coauthored by Rise, making the case that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has violated his oath of office and must be impeached. But border hawks are also directing their focus to Congress, with both Morgan and Homan noting Republicans didn’t pass major immigration measures even when former President Trump was in office. Most of the border security changes put in place during the Trump administration were the result of executive, not legislative, action. “How many more people have to die until we stop playing politics as usual? It’s time for Republicans to follow through on their promises,” said Morgan, who called for H.R. 29 to be brought to the House floor for a vote s quickly as possible. “The American people can know for sure where each member of Congress stands on border security and saving the lives of migrants.”
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