House GOP Bill Targets Border Crisis

Border agents not equipped to handle drug, weapons surge, Republicans say

Immigrants on the U.S.-Mexico border / Getty Images
July 29, 2021

House Republicans say their new immigration bill will reverse the historic surge of migrants by increasing the number of Customs and Border Protection agents, improving technology for rooting out illegal aliens, and resuming construction of a southern border wall.

Homeland Security Committee ranking member Rep. John Katko (R., N.Y.), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.), and conference chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) proposed the legislation on Thursday, arguing that the 1.1 million illegal crossings so far this year constitute a security threat. Citing an increase in fentanyl seizures by border patrol agents—enough to kill millions of people—the House Republicans say law enforcement isn't equipped to handle the challenge.

Katko said the administration’s "weak leadership" is squarely to blame for the border crisis, but his bill offers an effective alternative that will address the thousands of migrants flocking to the border each week.

"When the southwest border is lawless, it’s the fabric of all our communities that suffers. And that is unacceptable," Katko said. "From finishing the border wall system to modernizing technology and bolstering border staffing, this legislation tackles key shortcomings and weaknesses we’ve seen for ourselves that are fueling the border crisis. I am proud to stand with so many of my Republican colleagues to put forth a strong, common sense alternative to President Biden’s failing and destructive border security policies."

Republicans like McCarthy have repeatedly called for the Biden administration to restore pandemic safety measures like Title 42, which gives border patrol agents broad authority to turn back most migrants. Biden's overturning of the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program, law enforcement officials say, has also contributed to a 362 percent increase in illegal immigration at the southern border when compared to last year. 

The bill looks beyond traditional border infrastructure to curb the flow of migrants from Central and South America by directing $10 million toward commercial technologies to assist border security and monitoring. Katko also calls for the creation of a border security innovation lab, where officials can test ideas and concepts to make the apprehension of migrants more efficient.

Stefanik, who supports the bill, said the White House’s policies put the American people at risk.

"Biden’s open border policies have been a complete disaster, causing the worst border crisis we’ve seen in over 20 years," Stefanik told the Washington Free Beacon. "As the number of encounters continues to rise, drugs and weapons are flooding across our southern border, and Democrats have turned their backs on our border patrol agents and law enforcement. I am proud to support this legislation that reinstitutes President Trump's successful border policies and invests in infrastructure, technology, and support for our federal law enforcement officers. We know these policies work, and Biden’s negligence is dangerous to our national security."

Katko’s plan comes as the Biden administration seeks a new approach to the immigration crisis. A State Department plan released Thursday aims to address the "root causes" of increased migration, such as a lack of economic opportunities in countries like Guatemala, by collaborating with Central American governments. Vice President Kamala Harris, whom the White House has tasked with handling the crisis, has been the subject of bipartisan criticism due to her management of border security and illegal immigration.