June 09, 2022
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) spoke on the Senate floor to criticize the Biden administration’s continued mishandling of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Blunt slammed the administration’s efforts to end Title 42, which allows officials to more quickly turn back individuals attempting to cross the border illegally. As Blunt noted, the Department of Homeland Security recently reported that illegal border crossings have reached the highest levels in the department’s history, more than four times the average monthly number from 2018 to 2020.
Following are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Madam President, normally, I don't like to use numbers in speeches because I think numbers get lost in people's minds as they're trying to wrap their heads around numbers. But I do want to use some numbers today, because the numbers are just so incredible. During President Biden's time in office, the Department of Homeland Security has encountered illegal immigrants crossing our border more than 2.8 million times. In not quite a year-and-a-half, 2.8 million people were encountered crossing the border.
“Last month alone, they caught people trying to cross the southern border illegally 234,088 times. So a quarter of a million people just last month were caught trying to cross the border. That's the highest number in the department's history. It's more than four times the average monthly number from 2018 to 2020. Now, if you've got a problem that is four times bigger than it was in the three preceding years, it's probably time to ask what they were doing in those three preceding years that we're not doing now.
“Now, some of the people who crossed the border got sent back and may have gotten caught later in the month, they may have been a catch-and-release and then they come back. But some people who crossed the border didn't get caught at all. I'm not sure that that number is not bigger than the other number but even if you had double counting, it's still an incredible number. A quarter of a million people coming across the border illegally in one month that were caught. Not that were coming across the border, that were caught coming across the border.
“We've never seen such a massive or prolonged effort by people to illegally enter our country that we're seeing now. It's created a giant humanitarian crisis at the border. Ask anyone who lives in a border community the problem that's been created by this. The Biden administration's response has actually been to tie their own hands by removing the most effective tools that we had to try to manage the situation. We developed a reasonable approach to the border based on lessons we learned from previous surges, one in 2014, when President Biden was vice president, one in 2019.
“These policies help cut the number of people trying to cross the border illegally. They allowed us to deal with legitimate cases of people seeking asylum in a much more responsible way. You know, people who actually qualify for asylum come to the United States like people don't come to any other country in the world. We are still the most welcoming country in the world for people who have a legitimate request for asylum. But that doesn't include everybody who lives in a poor and dangerous place. In contrast to what we've been doing to make it easier for people to seek asylum and harder for people to illegally cross the border, the Biden administration has over and over again reversed the progress that was being made.
“As Senator Ernst just well pointed out, first day, they halted the construction of the border wall. You know, the logical debate to have there was finish the wall in progress and then have a debate with the new administration about whether you needed more border wall. But they halted construction of the border wall, the material was there, the wall was in progress. In fact, the wall in some places had been removed, so you could put the more effective wall up so there was no wall.
“There were places where we had known for several years now that people would come across if they could, where there was no wall, there was no building the wall. They revoked a 2017 executive order calling for stricter enforcement of the immigration laws, they cancelled the migrant protection protocols, they suspended asylum cooperation agreements known as Safe Third Party agreements, third country agreements, if someone is unsafe where they live and have a legitimate claim for asylum. This is not a legitimate claim for entry into the United States, it's a legitimate claim to get to a safer place for them.
“Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, all had agreed to those third party, third country agreements. Even the leaders of Guatemala and Mexico said that President Biden's policies are incentivizing illegal crossings at our southern border, which, of course, create a lot of illegal transit through their country as well. Now the administration seems intent on ending the public health policy known as Title 42, which allows authorities to turn back many of the people caught crossing the border illegally.
“A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the efforts to eliminate Title 42 but the administration immediately decided they would appeal that decision. Now that's exactly the wrong decision at this moment, particularly when the administration is arguing that we need billions of dollars of more money to fight COVID and I think there's some merit to that argument, but you can't argue that we need billions of dollars to fight COVID, and COVID is over at the border, and it's no longer a problem there.
“In fact, it's just the latest example of the administration, over and over again, responding to the crisis at the border with the wrong decision. Time after time, the White House could have looked at problems that it was causing with its immigration policies and reverse course, and, time after time, it responded by going ahead anyway, doubling down on more than one occasion. According to The New York Times, there are tens of thousands of people who've been waiting in the border region for Title 42 to be lifted. They're watching the Biden administration in the signals it's sending now, and how it intends to deal with them the next time they cross the border.
“Most of them will be allowed to stay in the country while they go through immigration proceedings, many of which can take years to just get a hearing. That's why waiting in another country, like Mexico, was a policy that we should have continued to improve and move forward with because most people when they're waiting would find out that they didn't have a legitimate asylum claim, that they weren't going to successfully get into the United States, and disappear into the country that we live in, and they wind up going back, and making it easier for other people who had a legitimate asylum claim to have that asylum hearing.
“What makes it worse, the administration's proposed taking away essential resources to enforce immigration law. With the budget that they requested for this year, the Department of Homeland Security specified cutting the enforcement and removal budgets for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by $614 million. Doesn’t sound like to me that that's the way to deal with a problem that's the size of the problem that almost every American has a sense of. In April, the Homeland Security secretary said that he'll need to reprogram funding from other DHS accounts to respond to increased activity at the border while the administration, his administration, is asking for a $614 million cut.
“Other parts of the department, like the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, could have their operational funding diverted to process paperwork for illegal immigrants at the border. The human tragedy unfolding at our border is due in large parts to the policies of this administration, a massive turnaround that occurred on day one and hasn't stopped since. We need to act and they need to act on border security effectively and restore order to our immigration process. It's long past time for the administration to be honest with the American people about the crisis it’s created and to do something about it.”