Today, Senator Portman, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote an op-ed in RealClearPolitics highlighting the crisis at our southern border and calling for the Biden administration to implement critical policy changes to stop the flow of unlawful border crossings.
Yesterday, Portman released a statement expressing his concern with U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) operational statistics for March 2021 regarding the crisis at the southern border and the massive influx of unlawful migrants and unaccompanied children making the dangerous journey north. CBP reported 172,000 total encounters at the border in March, up 70 percent from February and more than five times the March 2020 numbers. This includes more than 53,000 migrant family members, a more than 1,000 percent increase from March 2020; nearly 100,000 single adult migrants, an increase of 275 percent versus last year; and nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children, double the amount that crossed the southern border in February and a nearly 500 percent increase from March 2020.
Last month, Portman traveled to the southern border in El Paso, Texas, where he witnessed firsthand the ongoing migrant and unaccompanied children crisis and visited overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities for housing unaccompanied children with bipartisan colleagues and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.
The entire op-ed can be viewed here and excerpts are below.
Stopping the Crisis at the Border
Senator Rob Portman
April 9, 2021
I recently traveled to the southern border with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to see the unfolding crisis firsthand and come up with solutions. The surge and resulting chaos is well documented.
Customs and Border Protection reported more than 172,000 total encounters at the border in March, up 70% from February and more than five times the March 2020 numbers. This includes more than 53,000 migrant family members, a more than 1,000% increase from March 2020; nearly 100,000 single adult migrants, an increase of 275% versus last year; and nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children, double the amount that crossed our border in February and a nearly 500% increase from March 2020.
The reason for the crisis is clear. The Biden administration’s policy changes encouraged families and unaccompanied children, mostly from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, to come to our southern border and apply for asylum. Traffickers are telling families they can come into the U.S. if they pay to make the treacherous trip north, then apply for asylum at the border. Under the Biden policies, there is a lot of truth to that.
The Biden administration must change course before it gets worse. It should start by reinstating the ability to turn people back under the COVID-19 health emergency under Title 42 while implementing the following policies:
First, support the Border Patrol and finish the wall system already paid for, closing gaps and deploying badly needed technology.
Second, give families and children seeking asylum relief a way to apply in their own country or a neighboring country rather than making the treacherous trip north. The Biden administration should do this by reviving the Safe Third Country agreements with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries and working with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees so that individuals can seek asylum and are resettled in the country that makes the most sense for their situation – be it a neighboring country or the United States.
Third, the Biden administration should stop releasing children and families into the U.S. and instead restart and expand a pilot program that allows for due process through a rapid adjudication of asylum claims at the border, starting with the most recent cases. This will require additional resources, but it is worth it because it will create a powerful disincentive for future migration if people know they will be in custody on the border while their claims are being resolved.
Fourth, because American jobs are the magnet, the E-Verify program, which checks if a worker is legally eligible to work in the United States, must be made mandatory for all businesses, backed up by employer sanctions.