On Senate Floor, Portman Urges Biden Administration to Take Action on Migrant and Illicit Narcotics Crisis at Southern Border

WASHINGTON, DC – This evening on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, urged the Biden administration to take action on the ongoing migrant crisis at the southern border. In addition to the unprecedented number of individuals, children, and families attempting to enter the country unlawfully, illicit narcotics, like fentanyl, are also coming across the border and into the United States, resulting in an increase of overdose deaths. 

Last week, Portman issued a statement after U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics for May 2021 regarding the crisis at our southern border, highlighting that the surging numbers of illicit narcotics is a direct result of the Biden administration’s decision to dismantle the previous administration’s policies with no consideration of the ramifications.

In March, Portman visited the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing crisis and spoke to Border Patrol agents about how smugglers were using vulnerable individuals, particularly families and unaccompanied children who require significant processing time, as a way to distract agents to allow them to then move large quantities of illicit narcotics into the United States

A transcript of the speech can be found below and a video can be found here.  

“Mr. President, I’m here to talk about the escalating crisis on our southern border. I am the ranking Republican, meaning the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, which is the Committee that has, among other things, oversight over what happens at the Department of Homeland Security, and therefore at the border and Customs and Border Patrol and other responsibilities. So we’ve been looking at this issue carefully over the past few months trying to figure out how can we address this surge at the border that’s really overwhelming the Border Patrol. And it’s obviously about people, but it’s also about drugs. Because unfortunately, there are more and more drugs coming over the southern border as well, which in effect makes states like mine, Ohio, which is not on the southern border — we’re actually on the northern border — but it makes us part of the border in effect because we’re affected by what happens down there.

“At one time most of the most deadly drug, fentanyl, which is a synthetic opioid, was coming from China. And frankly, a lot of it coming from the mail system, our own Postal Service. We passed legislation here in this body. I worked with Republicans and Democrats alike on it. And we’ve largely been able to deal with that issue. But those same drugs have now moved to Mexico and now they’re coming across our southern border. So if you look at the amount of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, again the deadliest of all drugs at a time when more people are dying of overdoses in our country than ever in history, more and more of that is coming across the southern border. In addition to the cocaine, and crystal meth, and other dangerous drugs that are already coming. 

“So this is about the immigration system not working properly, having a huge surge of individuals, family members, unaccompanied kids. But it’s also about not having control of that border and having this contraband come over, and in the case of these dangerous drugs, contraband that’s actually resulting in overdoses and deaths all over the United States, including in my state of Ohio. 

“So how can we tell that it’s getting worse? I would just look at these numbers here. This is the latest from the Customs and Border Protection folks, it’s encounters at the southwest border. Remember, we had a crisis in May of 2019 which was deemed to be the worst crisis of its kind, and it was pretty bad. We had a lot of unaccompanied kids coming at that time and a lot of family members as well as individuals. The high point was here at 144,000 individuals. We’re now, as of May of 2021, which is last month, at 180,000. And some of my colleagues have said, ‘Well, it’s getting better.’ I don’t see it getting better, and the numbers don’t say it’s getting better. And it’s really at the point now where it is overwhelming those people whose jobs it is to try to control the border. They just don’t have the resources to be able to handle this. 

“It’s also overwhelming our system all the way through. So a lot of this is families and kids coming in, as an example. And we don’t have the facilities to take care of these children. During this first period of time, here’s the Biden Inauguration, after the inauguration, this huge increase started to happen, and it’s because policies were changed. And a new president coming in has the right to change policies, but in my view, what a president doesn’t have the right to do is to change policies without preparing for it. So, it’s one thing to say we’re not going to have an emergency on the southern border anymore, we’re going to do away with Title 42, which is a provision that says if you have somebody come over the border during COVID they can be turned back. And immediately the president said ‘No, we’re not going to use that anymore for kids, for unaccompanied kids.’ And they have now not used it for most families coming over. Not having Title 42 was a shock to the system. You had a situation where people were being turned away because of COVID one day and the next day they weren’t, and you can see the result. And, by the way, these are people who come from all over the world, but a lot from the Northern Triangle countries, the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. 

“Recently the president of Honduras talked about this. I know the president of Guatemala has talked about it. What the president of Guatemala has said in essence is the traffickers, the smugglers, they heard this, and they came down to our country and said, ‘Let’s go to the northern border,’ make that difficult and arduous journey, sometimes very dangerous journey for the children, because the Biden administration has said there would no longer be this Title 42 in place where we can turn you away at the border and in fact said we want to reunite families and kids. And that means come to the border and you can come into the country. And that’s what’s happened. 

“Look, I believe we ought to have a legal immigration system that is very healthy in this country. I believe in immigration. I think it’s a very important part of who we are as Americans. We take more people in every year than any other country in the world legally, and that’s over a million people a year. And I think that’s been good for our country. It’s part of the fabric of our society. We should want immigrants to come, but come in a legal and orderly way. And not only is the surge overwhelming the border, but it’s really not fair to all those people who have been waiting in line for years and years to come to our country, from a country like El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala, or Mexico for that matter. People who want to come legally, people who are reuniting with their families legally here or have skills that we want in this country, we should encourage that. But this is happening in a way that is not orderly and it’s happening because there’s been a change in policy. 

“The other big change in policy is that if you come, people were told, this is after the inauguration, then if you apply for asylum, meaning that you have a credible fear of persecution back home, so you apply for asylum, you will be allowed to come into the country. In other words, there won’t be an adjudication of that. There won’t be a decision made whether you applied properly or not, you will be told you can come into the country. 

“So I went down to the border a couple of months ago and was able to go there with Secretary Mayorkas and my colleague on the Committee, Senator Peters, who is the Democratic Chairman of the Committee. So this was a bipartisan group. And at that point, we were just overwhelmed with children. At that point, the Border Patrol stations and the Border Patrol detention facilities, which were primarily built, frankly, for single adults and were never built for long-term detention, were overwhelmed with children and you had children sleeping side-by-side during COVID, none of them being tested for COVID, by the way. And they didn’t have blankets, they had sheets, essentially, that had no real warmth or padding, and they were sleeping on the ground with pads underneath them, and the system just couldn’t handle it. Now, at this point, most of those children are out of the Border Patrol system and they are into the HHS system and HHS is the agency that is supposed to take care of these kids. They can only be in the Border Patrol custody for a short period of time. That was being violated. They were staying there much longer than they were supposed to under law. But there was no place else for them to go. So now there have been HHS facilities that have been built and opened and these HHS facilities are taking care of these kids. 

“I will say that some of my colleagues will say, ‘Well this is great news. We have fewer children in Border Control custody.’ That’s good, but they are still in American government custody, they just went from the Border Patrol to HHS. And HHS has had a tough time staffing up. There have been, as you know, allegations of abuse. Some of these contracts that have been given to the private sector to run these HHS facilities have not been done in a proper way and it has caused problems and a lot of the people down there on the border helping with the kids do not have the right training. They are not trained to take care of kids, including, by the way, a lot of government employees who have volunteered to go down, God bless them, they’re getting paid to go down there rather than do their work here in Washington, as an example, but they don’t have the training. So this creates a lot of issues, as you can imagine, when you have thousands and thousands of these kids showing up in unprecedented numbers. So that’s what we’re seeing on the border because of changes in policy. 

“Another change in policy that was made was not only were we no longer going to turn people away because of COVID without putting anything in its place to deal with all these claims, but instead there, was a policy called Remain in Mexico Policy, or the Migrant Protocol Policy, and under that policy, people who came as families and applied for asylum were told, ‘Fine, but you have to wait in Mexico rather than wait in the United States for your asylum claim to be adjudicated.’ And, frankly, a lot of those people ended up going back home because they were not brought into the United States, into the interior, as I said earlier, as a vast majority have been, instead they were told, ‘You have to wait in Mexico,’ they chose instead to go back to their home, mostly in Central America, rather than wait in Mexico. Those cases, once adjudicated, those people could come back and enter our country if they were successful in their court case. 

“But this system is not working. If a trafficker or a smuggler goes to a family in Central America or elsewhere — there are a lot of immigrants now coming from other countries, including all over Latin America, Ecuador, Nicaragua and other places – but if they go and they say, ‘Look if you come with us, give me a lot of money as a trafficker, thousands of dollars. And if these kids come with me or you come with me as a family, we’ll get you into America, and you will have the opportunity to stay in America.’ And you know what, I have to say tonight on the floor of the United States Senate that those smugglers and traffickers are probably telling the truth, and that’s the problem. Because when they come to the border and they claim asylum, then instead of having that be adjudicated there at the border and determined or instead saying, ‘You need to wait on the other side of the border until we adjudicate this,’ – but I would do it on the other side of the border, I would do the adjudications right there, rapidly – instead they’re saying, ‘Okay, here’s a bus pass, or here’s a plane ticket, go to the interior of the United States, go to your hometown, wherever it is’ — whoever is listening tonight, my home town is Cincinnati, Ohio – ‘go to Washington, DC, wherever, and then wait for your court case, you need to check in periodically.’ and those court cases and the adjudications take years. On average, four, five, six, seven, or eight years depending on who you talk to. And because a lot of these cases are appealed, that’s maybe where you get into the seven or eight years. So that’s a long period of time, right? When you’re in the United States awaiting your court case. Why? Because there’s a backlog, a huge backlog of over a million cases, I think it’s more like 1.3 million now. And so that huge backlog and the lack of resources that’s been devoted to the system and the fact that, just because you apply for asylum and you get to come into the United States, gives the trafficker the ability to say that, to say, ‘Just let your kids come with me or come with me as a family member, pay me a lot of money.’ and unfortunately a lot of these individuals, including kids, women, and girls get abused on the trip north from mostly again the Northern Triangle countries, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, up to Mexico, and obviously there’s a lot of issues with crossing the border itself in terms of going across the desert and some terrible stories. 

“But the point is they know that when they get to the United States, they are going to be told not that you have to turn back, not that you have to stay here until we decide whether you actually are, you know, going to get asylum, whether you qualify for it, but instead, here’s a bus ticket, here’s a plane ticket, go into the interior and wait. Now let’s say that individual who goes to the interior does not show up for the court case. What happens? Well, in theory there’s a group called ICE, which is part of the immigration system that then, having kept track of that person, deports the person back to their home country. That’s not happening or at least it’s not happening in the vast majority of cases. For a while it was that the administration and, frankly, the previous administration had a similar policy for at least some time, that we’re going to focus on criminals so those who were in the United States who were migrants coming up here who have a criminal record, we’re going to deport them, but not prioritizing others who simply come here under an asylum claim and then do not show up at their court case or show up but do not leave the country. But if you look at the deportation figures over the last several months in the Biden administration, you will see that is just simply not happening. In fact, there were fewer deportations last month, I’m told, than there are ICE agents. So I’m not sure what they are doing. 

“But I do know that on this day, on the inaugural day, President Biden said to the world, ‘We’re going to stop deportations for a period of time.’ And so that’s added to the narrative that if you’re a smuggler or trafficker, one of these people that is taking advantage and exploiting these families and individuals and kids, you have a narrative that’s pretty strong where you say, ‘Hey, if you come to the border and you claim asylum, you can come into the United States of America and then we’ll see what happens.’ And unfortunately, right now we don’t have a system in place to deal with that. So that’s a long way of saying we’ve got a crisis on the border and we’re not facing up to it. 

“And in a number of the hearings that I’ve been at on this topic, the administration witnesses go out of their way to say this is the fault of the Trump administration. And their argument is, as I understand it, that the Trump administration should have been prepared for this surge by putting in place during this time period a lot more of this infrastructure – we talked about the HHS facilities, for instance, that we’re not ready and therefore kids got stuck at the Border Patrol detention facilities. It’s an interesting argument. They didn’t have the issue here. They didn’t have the surge. They did back in 2019, but they had put policies in place to deal with it. You can argue whether those policies were right or not, but then you can’t then say, ‘Okay they should have had all of this infrastructure in place.’ 

“My point is we need to own up to our own actions and to blame the Trump administration for what’s happening now in terms of the lack of infrastructure when the infrastructure wasn’t needed, frankly, given the policies they had in place, I think is frankly just not a very constructive use of time. We should instead be focused on how can we take this situation and make it better and deal with it? And my own view, for what it’s worth, is we start with enforcing the law. Particularly along the border and say to our Border Patrol, ‘We’re going to give you the support you need to be able to support keeping these drugs out, dealing with the immigration crisis in an appropriate way.’ Instead we’ve done just the opposite. 

“So the first thing I would do is to say, let’s support those who are on the border. Let’s tell them we’re going to be there for them and provide the resources they need to do their job. One of them is to complete the fencing that was started during the Trump administration. There are some in this body on the other side of the aisle and of course a lot in the Obama administration who did not support the wall, same with the new Biden administration, but the Trump administration decided to go ahead with the wall. They got the money for it. They started building it, not across the whole border, but over about 20 percent of the border – which has often been misunderstood – but areas where it would make a difference to slow people down. I’ve always been of the view that the wall is not in and of itself an answer, because if you don’t have technology associated with the wall, people will go under it, over it, or around it. You have to have the cameras and the sensors and so on to make the wall effective. That has not been completed. What has been completed is most of the fencing, but then there are gaps in the fencing, and when I was down there, as everyone can testify who has been down to the border to see this, there are literally holes in the wall where they were going to put a gate in but they hadn’t completed it yet and the Biden administration came in, again, one of the things they did on day one, they said, ‘Stop, stop the construction,’ even though the contractors had already been paid to do this work. Literally, if you go to the El Paso sector, where I was, you will go to an opening in the wall, there will be the construction material on the ground and there’s no contractors there and the Border Patrol, you can imagine, is demoralized by this. These people have already been paid to put up the gate, but they leave the gate open, so they have to be 24/7 physically present there to keep people from coming through those openings, which is what they do, because they don’t have the people to do it, just assume they’re going to have a lot of crossings there when there is not Border Patrol there. 

“Instead we should complete those very small sections of the wall that haven’t been completed. And again, it’s mostly openings. And then we should put the technology in place. We were told when we were down in El Paso in that sector that only 10 percent of the technology had been put in place for, let’s say, dozens of miles of wall. Not thousands, not for even the area outside of the suburban and urban areas, but in areas where it could slow people down to give Border Patrol the chance to be able to respond. But the technology was stopped, again, on day one, because President Biden said we’re going to stop construction, stop, even though the contractors had been paid for this work. So that, to me, is number one. 

“Let’s give the Border Patrol what they need in terms of personnel and equipment and specifically the technology. I think the technology is the most important part of this and you do need the sensors and you do need the cameras, and you do need to know what’s going on. If smugglers are coming through with a bunch of drugs and they can divert the Border Patrol, which they do, with another group, let’s say a group of unaccompanied children or families where there’s lot of processing time involved, the Border Patrol will go to the one group and spend a lot of time processing, as they have to do and in the meantime the group coming with the drugs will sneak across. If you have the technology in place, you can avoid that, but if you don’t, there’s no way to deal with that crisis. So number one, let’s take care of those along the border who are trying their best to do their work and don’t have the support that they need. 

“Number two, I think we need to reinstate some asylum policies that were starting to work effectively. Frankly they hadn’t been implemented fully during the Trump administration so it’s hard to tell. But one is allowing people who want to apply for asylum to apply in their home country or in a safe third country. So, think about this. I talked earlier, people who want to apply for asylum now are just coming to the border. They’re told, since they have an asylum claim, they can go to the interior of the United States and they’re given, maybe, a notice to appear, actually, a lot of families are not given a notice to appear anymore, because they are just overwhelmed. We saw that. I saw families who were literally given just a sheet of paper that had the addresses of where the ICE offices are in America and they were told, ‘We don’t know where you’re going, but wherever you go, go to this ICE office in your region.’ But no notice to appear in court. But whether they are given a notice to appear or not, they are going into the interior. 

“Instead, what if those people applied, not taking that dangerous journey north through Mexico, but instead applied in their home country or applied in a safe third country. And there are safe third country agreements with countries in the region, for instance Guatemala, which as you know, you go through Guatemala if you’re coming from El Salvador or Honduras or further south. That makes a lot of sense to me. Those were discontinued for some reason. Now again, they really hadn’t been put in a place in a way where they were implemented fully, but that would seem to me to be a very smart thing, to tell people if you want to apply for asylum, that’s fine. Come to our consulate office and apply. Or if you don’t want to apply in your own country, perhaps because you do fear persecution, go to a third country, a safe third country, and apply. Doesn’t that make sense? Also, I think we should – and again these should all be bipartisan ideas, giving the Border Patrol resources they need, third-country asylum applications. I know for a while, there were a number of Democrats who strongly supported applying for asylum in your own home country. President Obama’s administration did for some time. 

“But third, I would require adjudication at the border. So when you come for asylum – and this is consistent with legislation that’s bipartisan, that Senator Sinema and Senator Cornyn have introduced that I support – is to have regional processing centers on the border. This will take some funds. It will be expensive because we don’t have a system in place right now. I’ve said there is a 1.2 million, 1.3 million backlog in asylum claims. Think about that. That’s why people wait four, five, six, seven years. Instead, have these on the border, have these operations where somebody can come, claim asylum, go before an immigration official, someone who can judge whether that asylum claim is credible or not. Now, a little background to this — if you come from these Northern Triangle countries or you come from Mexico and you claim asylum, only about 15 percent are ultimately successful. Why? Because most people who are coming are coming for economic reasons. Which I totally understand. If I was a father in Honduras, in a rural area, and I had no prospects for a job, I would want to gather my family and come to the United States because you can get a lot more financial security here for yourself and your family. That’s totally understandable. But that’s not the basis for an immigration system. Because, unfortunately, there are billions of people around the world in that kind of a situation. So it needs to be based on an orderly system where, yes, people can apply, as they do every day from Honduras and come in through the legal immigration system, or if they have a credible fear, they can apply for asylum. But why not do it in these safe third countries or when you come to up to the border, do it at the border. And again let’s assume 15 percent in the end qualify, those 15 percent would be able to come in as asylees. Much as refugees come into our country. It’s basically the same criteria and I’m not against the refugee system. I think we should accept refugees in this country, as other countries do, who have a credible fear of persecution in their home country and need a place to land. And we have a successful system to do that, and a system to resettle those people. There are agencies that specialize in that. A lot of them are private sector agencies. 

“So I think on the border is where we ought to put the funding. These regional processing centers ought to be there to help make the decision quickly, quickly, so the people don’t have to wait for years but instead they get an answer, yes or no, to be able to come into this country if they apply for asylum and they qualify for asylum. Finally, I would say that we need to put a system in place to discourage the illegal immigration that goes to the employer. And I know this is somewhat controversial on both sides of the aisle for different reasons. To me, if an employer can hire someone who is illegal because that person has documentation, say, a driver’s license or a Social Security card or something else that is fraudulent, there will be more and more illegal immigration because that’s the magnet. I know some say that people come to this country to take advantage of our social services and not to work. There may be some of that. But I will tell you, and if you go on the border and talk to these migrants, which I have done, and I did it again just a couple of months ago – and I’ve done it many times before – and ask them, why are you coming to America? They will not say they’re coming to America to get on our social welfare system. They say they’re coming to work. They’re coming because they know they can make five times, ten times, maybe even from poor areas in Honduras, 15 times what they can in their home country, and they’d like to bring their families and like them to have a better life and maybe send remittances back to their family. Well, that’s – again, that’s an issue that we need to address in these third countries but in the meantime we have to have an orderly system of immigration. If you allow employers to hire people without any consequence, then this will continue to happen. So what’s the answer to that? 

“Well one is to have an E-Verify system that really works. That means you have to verify electronically whether someone is eligible to work in the United States. And the small business owners should not be the police officers. It should be easy to do. There should be a software system that enables them to find out immediately whether that social security card is fraudulent or not. That includes looking at Social Security number online and deciding whether this number is connected to this person. It also I think is going to require a photograph and looking at the photograph and determining whether the person is who the person says he or she is. But this can be done with the new technologies that we have. Right now we have E-Verify in place, but it is not mandatory. Don’t you think it should be mandatory? Because if you dry up the job opportunities for people coming illegally, then you will not have this magnet pulling people over the border. Again, legal immigration ought to be encouraged. We ought to bring in refugees. Asylees who qualify ought to be given asylum in this country. That’s who we are. We are a country that has always welcomed the stranger but do it in an orderly and lawful way. If we don’t do that, we’ll continue to see the border be overwhelmed. We will continue to see this. 

“There’s no reason for this to change based on current policies. If these simple steps I talked about, which could all be bipartisan – this is not a partisan issue; this is an issue of commonsense approaches that have been taken by Republican and Democratic administrations over the years. We can make a big difference here. There is a small program called the Central American Minors Program, which was reinstated just this week and it helps with regard to unaccompanied kids coming from Central America. I support that program. I’m glad the Biden administration put it in place. And I’ve been told by Biden administration officials at the highest level at DHS that this is the answer. Well, we had something like 19,000 kids coming over the border during one month. And that system in the Obama years when it was in place, the Central American Minors Program, only had 3,000 or 4,000 kids come through it over two years, something like that. So we had more children coming over in one week than they had in that entire program. So, I’m not suggesting that program is a bad idea. Let’s do that. But if you don’t do these other things, too, you’re not going to make a dent in this issue. 

“And, again, our hearts go out to some of these individuals. They have a tough time in their countries. And we wish their countries were more like ours. We wish that they had more economic opportunities, more freedoms, that they had a democracy and market system that actually worked for the people. That’s not the reality now. And I know the administration is focused on saying the answer to this question is dealing with the push factors, dealing with, as Vice President Kamala Harris said during her trip, the source of the problem, which is the poverty in Central America. Well, I will say, one, there are migrants coming from all over the world. Central America, of course, and that continues, and it’s a very poor part of our hemisphere, but also from many other countries including Mexico, including people from Romania, from Yemen, from Ecuador, from Colombia, certainly countries all over Latin America. So it’s a big problem. Again there are billions of people in the world who, unfortunately, don’t have the kind of lifestyle we have in this country and aspire to it. So you have to have an immigration system of some kind. 

“Second, I would make the point that the administration is talking about spending $4 billion in Central America. I suppose that’s over the next few years. It should be noted that we just spent $3.6 billion on economic development in those same countries over the past five years. So I’m for that. I think we should be helping these countries develop. I was for a trade agreement with these countries to try to encourage their economic development. I’m for helping deal with the corruption and dealing with the kind of lack of transparency and the lack of opportunity in these countries. That’s all good. The judicial system and the rule of law needs to be strengthened, no question about it. I’m for doing that. These countries are in our hemisphere, they are in our backyard. They should somebody treated, in my view, differently than countries elsewhere in the world because they are so close to us. They’re our neighbors essentially. But that’s not going to solve the problem. Certainly not during my lifetime. It will take decades and that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it and we have been doing it. $3.6 billion of hard-earned taxpayer money has gone towards this in the last five years. But I don’t think it’s honest to tell the American people if we just spend a little more money in Central America, this problem will be solved. Wouldn’t that be nice if we could wave a magic wand and it could be solved? And suddenly those countries could be prosperous and free. It’s going to take a long time. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing it. 

“But in the meantime we’ve got to come up with a system that is lawful, that is orderly, that is humane, that deals with this problem. And by putting our head in the sand, or blaming the previous administration – again, here’s their record – is not going to solve the problem. In fact, it’s going to create an impression that the problem is easy to solve, which it is not. It’s a difficult problem, no question about it. And broader immigration reform is something that’s needed, no question about that. But in the meantime let’s focus on the border. Let’s do these simple things, let’s support the Border Patrol, let’s make sure they have what they need in terms of technology. Let’s be sure we’re doing all we can to have asylees apply in their country, or if not in a third country. If they come to our border, let’s adjudicate these claims at the border. Because then the next group will say, ‘I’m not going to get to come into the United States and wait for four or five years and get embedded in the community. I’m going to have my case decided at the border.’ It’s more likely those traffickers, those smugglers who are exploiting these people, are not going to be able to say, again with some credibility right now, ‘Hey you come with me. You pay me a lot of money, I’ll take you. Not just to the border but you’ll get in to America. You’ll be able to have a life there because you won’t be deported.’ That’s what they can say now. We want them instead to be saying, ‘Well, you’re going to have to have your case adjudicated at the border.’ You may be qualified, 15 percent again have made it through — and those are people who should be taken care of, in my view, as asylees. But for those other individuals, they will know that it’s much better to apply legally, go through the system and to have the opportunity to go through an orderly, legal process. 

“So I hope that the administration makes some of these changes quickly because I don’t see this situation getting any better. In fact, in May it got worse, despite everyone saying from DHS with whom I spoke, ‘Don’t worry, things are getting better.’ I don’t see that. There’s a looming date — I think it is the end of the July — when Title 42 no longer will apply to single individuals. Right now Title 42, I talked about earlier, which is where because of COVID, the United States government is turning people away at the border. Right now this is happening with regard to single individuals. When Title 42 ends, which it will at the end of what is the COVID-19 public health emergency, which expires soon, then what’s going to happen? Well, I can tell you, the Border Patrol is very, very nervous about that. 

“And that’s one question they asked me repeatedly – what are we going to do when we can’t use Title 42? And when people know, they’re coming into this country, they’re not likely to get deported. So, that’s a short-term issue we have to deal with. Congress could extend Title 42 for now. We still have a COVID issue, not just in this country. Thank goodness we’re getting over it. But there is a much bigger issue unfortunately south of the border and all of these countries we talked about, including some of these countries in South America that are having a serious issue now with COVID. So you could continue it, in my view, as a public health emergency. But, in any case, let’s not do this, get rid of, as an example, Title 42, without preparing for it. Let’s be sure there is in place something else, something better, to be able to deal with the obvious surge that we have seen. So I appreciate the fact that this is a tough issue. And I know that some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would probably prefer that we not get into these difficult issues, because they’re hard. 

“I do see that the Presiding Officer has now arrived with whom I have worked quite a bit on this issue, and we have a specific piece of legislation that helps deal with this issue, that helps deal with the surge. That legislation is bipartisan. It creates a strategic plan and a contingency fund for immediate needs at the border when there is a surge. To deal with the DHS issue I talked about earlier where the Border Patrol just gets overwhelmed. That’s another part of what we ought to do, is to be honest about the problem, to deal with it. It’s called the Border Response Resilience Act, and it enables the Department of Homeland Security to respond to the worst migration crisis that we’ve had in at least 20 years. 

“And I would hope that, again, that’s a bipartisan approach, that we could at least pass that and then take the other four steps that I talked about to ensure that we have an orderly system that actually works. To be sure we can retain the sovereignty of our border, keeping these illicit drugs out like the synthetic opioids, like fentanyl that are killing so many Americans, and that we have an orderly and lawful and humane immigration system.”