Republicans on Judiciary Committee forward a wide-ranging border security bill.

Speaker McCarthy says bill will get a vote by full House.

CBP Processing Unaccompanied Children on the South Texas Border..
Photo provided by Hector Silva.

A major piece of immigration legislation was advanced by the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee late Wednesday night. The Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023 (H.R. 2640) was passed by a near-party line vote of 23-15. The only dissenting Republican was Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who expressed opposition to the E-Verify provisions.

The legislation contained language from several individual bills that were combined into a single package.

H.R. 2640 would among other provisions:

* Plug loopholes in the asylum system that are currently being exploited by economic migrants by raising the bar for “credible fear” claims and denying entry to aliens claiming asylum at the border who have passed through a safe third country on their way to the United States and failed to apply in that safe country;

* Block the administration from continuing its policy of catch-and-release by making most illegal aliens ineligible for parole or release from custody other than to be returned to their home country or returned to a contiguous country to await the adjudication of their asylum claim there (Remain in Mexico);

* Require suspension of entry for aliens when DHS isn’t able to detain, return or remove illegal aliens.

* Prevent family units who cross the border illegally from being released into the United States by requiring family units apprehended at the border be detained;

* Require that accompanied minors only be released to parents or legal guardians who are lawfully present in the United States;

* Address the serious and growing problem of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) showing up at the U.S. southern border by requiring that UACs who are not trafficking victims and who are not in fear of returning to their home country be returned promptly to their home country to be reunited with their families;

* Increase the civil penalty for illegal entry and apply the same civil and criminal penalties for illegal entry to temporary nonimmigrants who overstay their visas; and

* Permanently authorize E-Verify and require all employers to screen all new hires through E-Verify within 3 years with a gradual phase-in based on business size, with agricultural employers having the last compliance date.

One of the main objections of Democratic committee members was that the bill would endanger children trying to enter the United States to gain asylum. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) pushed back.

The current system [under Pres. Biden] has 85,000 kids they can’t find!…And we’re sitting here talking about a fiction, a fiction of saying there’s an infant rolling through somewhere outside of Eagle Pass right now begging to claim asylum. The infant is not doing that. This is absurd! You know it’s absurd! ~ Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.)

The Border Security and Enforcement Act is a serious approach to ending the border crisis created by Pres. Biden. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has promised to fast track the bill for a floor vote. There are still some Republican holdouts who have indicated they will not vote to pass the bill, most vocally Tony Gonzales (R-Tex.), who has said anyone who wants to come to the U.S. to work should be allowed in.

Getting the bill through the House would be a major milestone, but the obstacle of a Democratic-controlled Senate and Pres. Biden’s certain opposition would remain. Still, it would put considerable political pressure on the Senate and the President to finally take action to address the ongoing border crisis, or to continue current policies that face major public opposition going into the 2024 election season.

Further, Title 42, the measure put in place by the Trump Administration during the COVID pandemic that allows Customs and Border Protection to quickly expel illegal border crossers, is set to expire on Pres. Biden’s order on May 11. CBP expects the surge to get even worse.

And House Republicans are increasingly calling for DHS Secretary Mayorkas’ impeachment for his role in facilitating a historic wave of illegal immigration.

Republican Congressional candidates promised to secure the border in their Commitment to America. H.R. 2640 is the first step toward fulfilling that promise.

Written by Eric Ruark, Director of Research for Numbers USA ~ April 21, 2023

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