The US Senate hasn’t yet recessed for the Christmas holiday. With the House of Representatives already emptied out, though, there is practically no chance of the upper chamber clearing any of its legislative hurdles until next year. The most immediate one is an aid package for Ukraine that Republicans are holding up until they get some meaningful action on illegal immigration and the security of the southern border, such as it is.
The White House wants $110 billion for Ukraine. That would almost double the total amount of aid approved by Congress since Russia first invaded its neighbor. According to the State Department Office of Inspector General and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the government has so far approved around $113 billion. That figure includes about $44 billion in security aid since Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border.
There is no end to the conflict in sight, which presumably means there is also no limit on how much money Washington is willing to pour into it. How many of those dollars can be accounted for is debatable.
Southern Border Free-For-All
Meanwhile – and despite claims by the administration that the border with Mexico is “secure” – Customs and Border Protection figures show more than two million encounters with illegal aliens at the southern border since 2021. It’s a virtual free-for-all, which also means that there’s no way to know how many more illegals have successfully evaded CBP officers.
The situation has deteriorated to the point where at least one southern border district Democrat and member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus is demanding tougher measures on illegal immigration. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) is worried about the disastrous effect virtually unchecked mass migration is having on cross-border commerce. “The crisis at our border is seriously affecting legitimate trade,” Cuellar wrote on Dec. 17. “This year alone, vehicle and rail operations have been suspended at multiple ports of entry due to an overwhelming number of migrants, worsening delays for truck drivers transporting goods and costing our economy millions.”
With a slim majority in the House, Republicans are in a strong position to demand stricter measures. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says there are “significant issues still under discussion” and warned that a vote on the Ukraine package tentatively planned for this week is likely to fail. Even if it were to get through the Senate, House Republicans have made it clear that there will be no approval unless the southern border issue is dealt with. As it stands, the final text of a bill on Ukraine aid and border security is not finished.
A 2017 internal Department of Homeland Security memo concluded that border walls are, in fact, the most effective way to combat illegal immigration. Figures for how much money was appropriated and spent on border barrier construction during Donald Trump’s tenure in the White House vary quite a bit. Even the highest estimates, though, put the total at no more than $15 billion. That’s a drop in the ocean compared to what the United States has so far spent on trying to secure Ukraine’s border – not to mention how much more is probably going to be spent in that faraway land.