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What Does Border Security Mean to Joe Biden?

Change the rules at the border or just throw money at the problem? Such a tough decision, it seems.

In a presidency defined by disasters, one crisis has proven a much heavier millstone around President Joe Biden’s neck than the rest: Border security – or, rather, a shocking lack thereof. With a record number of illegal aliens encountered by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including a new high in “got-a-ways,” and enough fentanyl seized to kill the entire US population, even the Biden White House and congressional Democrats have changed their tune on the issue. No longer is the border crisis a fabrication of the GOP; it’s a problem that must be addressed.

With both sides finally agreeing that the lack of border security is a serious problem, one might assume some bipartisan action has been – or, at least, will soon be – taken. One would be wrong. While Republicans and Democrats both now admit that border security needs to be fixed, neither side seems able to agree on just what that means.

Biden’s Idea of Border Security

A White House Fact Sheet from March of last year reveals how the president plans to fix the leaky border. Biden’s budget request included “nearly $25 billion” for CBP and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – an increase of around $800 million over the 2023 funding – which would, in part, facilitate the hiring of 350 more Border Patrol agents and 460 more processing assistants for both agencies. Half-a-billion would go to “security technology” at the border, and another $40 million would somehow help CBP “combat fentanyl trafficking and disrupt transnational criminal organizations.”

New Banner Border CrisisBillions would also go to the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, and the immigration courts would swell as well, enabling them to process more asylum requests. Finally, another $7 billion or so would go to the Office of Refugee Resettlement to “support the resettlement of up to 125,000 refugees in Fiscal Year 2024.”

In short, Biden’s idea of fixing border security is to throw money at it and grow the federal bureaucracy. More recently, the Biden administration sought nearly $14 billion in emergency funding for the border – as part of the larger $105 billion funding package that would have sent $61 billion to Ukraine and another $14 billion to Israel. Even if the border funding had been in a stand-alone bill, however, it would still have been nothing more than a federal hiring spree. The administration said the funds would allow for the hiring of another 1,300 Border Patrol agents, 300 processing coordinators and support staff, 1,000 CBP officers, 1,600 asylum officers and support staff, and 1,470 ICE attorneys.

Then there’s the impossible mission: addressing the “root causes” of immigration so that hordes of people won’t head for America to begin with.

The Republican Solution: Shut Off the Flow

After a trip to the border earlier this week, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he thinks Border Patrol agents would rather see policy changes than $14 billion to hire a bunch of additional agents to enforce the same rules that aren’t working now. Johnson led a group of 60 House Republicans to Eagle Pass, TX, Wednesday, January 3. The speaker blamed president Biden for the “mayhem” he saw at the border, leading Tapper to bring up the almost $14 billion Biden requested to hire more personnel. Johnson quoted the deputy chief of Border Patrol, who said he doesn’t need more buckets. “in other words, he doesn’t need more personnel to handle the flow,” the speaker explained. “He needs to turn the flow off.”

“This is not about sending more money down here,” Johnson continued. “It’s about changing policy. And the White House seems not to understand that.”

So what does border security mean to the GOP – and how could the president address it, even without a bipartisan movement from Congress? Johnson sent Biden his suggestions in December, and he posted the letter on X for the world to see.

“I urge you to immediately take executive actions available to you under existing immigration laws to stem the record tide of illegal immigration. Immediate executive actions should include the following:

  • End catch-and-release, and either turn back or detain all illegal aliens encountered between ports of entry.
  • Cease exploitation of parole authority, and ensure it is granted solely ‘on a case-by-case basis’ instead of using parole for entire classes of aliens.
  • Reinstate previous, and pursue new, asylum cooperative agreements and begin to negotiate with Mexico to reinstate the Remain in Mexico program.
  • Expand the use of expedited removal so that more aliens are screened and immediately removed if they cannot demonstrate asylum eligibility.
  • Immediately renew construction of the border wall.”

Different Strokes for Different Folks

To President Biden and many congressional Democrats, border security means keeping the same policies in place but spending billions to put more bodies on the border to facilitate the flow. Republicans, on the other hand, seem to understand the real “root cause” of the massive influx of illegal immigrants since Biden took office: The consequences of crossing the border illegally went from being detained and deported to being relocated somewhere in the US and given free room and board. The Biden administration might as well have sent out invitations saying, “come on in, the border’s wide open.”

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