To many Americans, one of the more galling parts of the border mess was watching as newly arrived illegal immigrants boarded airplanes to disperse into the country without having to show valid photo identification like the rest of the passengers.
Under Biden administration policies, they were allowed to show their catch-and-release papers from Homeland Security — bearing the name they happened to give Border Patrol agents at the time they were caught.
House Republicans say it’s time to put that to an end.
Their new border security bill, which is slated for a vote this week, includes language that would prohibit Homeland Security from accepting catch-and-release documents such as arrest warrants or immigration court summonses.
That change, tucked inside the 213-page bill, is one of a host of ways the GOP directly challenges the way President Biden has managed the chaos at the southern border.
“While U.S. citizens are required to have government issued-identification to board a commercial flight, the Biden administration allows hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to board flights with no form of confirmed identification,” Rep. Mark Green, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and one of the bill’s authors, told The Washington Times in a statement.
SEE ALSO: Biden dismisses GOP border security bill as too tough on illegal immigrants, says he’ll veto
He added: “This reckless policy presents severe security gaps that threaten the safety of U.S. air travelers. The flying public deserves a safe and secure aviation system, and the American people need laws that are actually enforced, which is exactly what the Secure the Border Act will do.”
Republicans are shooting for a vote Thursday on the legislation, timed to coincide with the end of the Title 42 pandemic border expulsion authority. Analysts say the end of Title 42 will move the border from chaos to catastrophe as the Biden administration cedes the one major tool that had kept a lid on the situation.
The legislation would restart border wall construction, add more Border Patrol agents, reel in the administration’s expansive and legally iffy use of “parole” to welcome unauthorized migrants, tighten the rules on claiming asylum and push to end the practice of catch-and-release.
It would also mandate businesses use E-Verify, a system that checks to make sure new hires are authorized to work in the U.S.
The White House on Monday said Mr. Biden would veto the bill, issuing a statement of policy calling the measure too harsh to illegal immigrants because it would cut off “nearly all access” for them to claim protection here in the U.S.
The bill would make it easier for the U.S. to deny entry to illegal immigrant juveniles who show up at the border without a parent – known in government speak as Unaccompanied Alien Children – by equalizing the policy. Currently, children from Mexico can be ousted but children from further afield are required to be turned over to social workers for placement with sponsors in the U.S.
SEE ALSO: Gov. Greg Abbott announces ‘border force’ to defend Texas border against migrant surge
The Obama administration in 2014 had called for the Mexico policy to be expanded and the GOP is echoing that call in the new bill.
The legislation also tightens asylum rules by specifying that general conditions of crime or gang violence in a home country can’t be valid claims for refuge, on par with religious or political persecution.
And the GOP bill would erect a hurdle for migrants who flee their homes and travel through another country to reach the U.S. The belief is that if they were truly fleeing persecution they would have sought asylum in the countries they crossed, but by continuing to the U.S., they showed their claim is more about regular immigration than fleeing harm.
The Biden administration is about to finalize its policy with a similar third-country prohibition, but it said the GOP’s version is too harsh.
Immigrant-rights activists have criticized both Republicans and the Biden administration on asylum, saying the most vulnerable people will have trouble getting over the new hurdles.
Republicans counter that the system is flooded with bogus applications and valid applicants right now are waiting up to a decade for a hearing on their claims. Tightening rules means they can get a ruling faster.
House Republicans head into this week’s vote with a striking amount of unity on an issue that’s deeply divided Washington for years.
They scored a significant victory when they got Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, the chamber’s most senior Hispanic Republican, to be the chief sponsor.
The main note of discord in recent days has come from Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, who complained that requiring companies to use E-Verify turns too much power over to the government. He worried a hostile administration could use the tool as an “on/off switch for employment.”
“Not a single illegal immigrant will get deported due to E-Verify. Meanwhile, the federal government will accumulate more power over every legal citizen,” he said on Twitter.
Roughly 6 million unauthorized migrants have been encountered trying to enter the U.S. since Jan. 2021. Of those, as many as 3 million were caught and released, according to estimates by the Center for Immigration Studies.
Another 600,000 migrants were detected entering but never stopped – they are known as “gotaways.” Some other unknown amount has managed to sneak in while avoiding detection altogether.
Meanwhile, fentanyl smuggling and terrorism suspects sneaking into the U.S. also have reached record levels, according to Homeland Security’s statistics.
Most analysts put the responsibility on the Biden administration’s policy changes, including ditching a series of tough Trump-era restrictions. The new policies don’t seek to deter illegal immigrants as much as shape how they come, urging them to schedule appointments and show up at border crossings rather than pay smugglers and be snuck across the boundary.
The Biden administration in 2021 said the surge was “seasonal” and would dissipate. When that didn’t happen the administration blamed global trends and said it would take action from other countries and from Congress to bring things under control.
Now, faced with some congressional action, the administration says it’s not what Mr. Biden is looking for.
“If the president were presented with H.R. 2, he would veto it,” the White House said. H.R. 2 is the official legislative designation of the House Republicans’ bill.