There are two questions lawmakers must ask themselves now that they will, supposedly, finally focus on the border: 1) Is their job to represent illegal aliens or to defend Americans first and foremost from the effects of those trying to come here illegally and those orchestrating the smuggling? 2) Is the best way to deal with the humanitarian aspect of the border crisis, which itself should be secondary to security problems for Americans, by holding the line and not letting anyone enter or by offering better accommodations for catch-and-release? Unfortunately, Senate Republicans clearly believe their job is to protect illegal aliens before Americans.
After refusing to make Democrats take a single tough vote for an entire year of this immigration crisis, after refusing to push legislation changing a single policy or pushing back against the courts that impelled this crisis, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are finally taking action. However, the action they are taking consists entirely of more humanitarian funding for the illegal aliens empowering cartels and smugglers, to the detriment of Americans. No changes to asylum, Flores, sanctuary cities, or judicial jurisdiction over immigration – the catalysts for this crisis – just funding for more diapers and formula.
Nobody wants to see this humanitarian crisis, but the best way to solve it is to shut it off. Then there won’t be a humanitarian crisis, because illegal aliens will be dissuaded from coming. Throwing more money at the problem in an attempt to more efficiently streamline catch-and-release will further fuel the humanitarian crisis by incentivizing more of them to come, not to mention endanger the Americans our lawmakers swore an oath to protect.
Most of the money Republicans plan to allocate in the Wednesday markup at the Senate Appropriations Committee is not even for Border Patrol and ICE, but for Health and Human Services (HHS). They are literally pumping several billion dollars more into an operation that one judge referred to as completing a criminal conspiracy, delivering self-trafficked Central American teens into the hands of family members who themselves are here illegally. Fewer than 10 percent of those sponsoring the Central American teens are here legally. Congress should allocate more funding to deport those criminal smugglers, not streamline their operation by rewarding them with the goal of their conspiracy.
Even most of the funding for DHS will be for “humanitarian aid,” not for enforcement to hold the line on the river. “We want to build a wall. We think the president’s made a good case for that,” McConnell said on “Fox & Friends” Monday. “That’s not what this is about. This is just the humanitarian part of the problem on our side, obviously, of the border.”
The problem with this assertion is that McConnell refused to fight for more enforcement funding for the first two years of Trump’s presidency. He signed away leverage on every single budget bill, including the supplemental disaster spending bill that Democrats badly wanted. McConnell could have demanded enforcement funding in return for the $19 billion in spending, yet he gave it to them for free and convinced Trump to support the bill.
What about the upcoming September 30 budget deadline? McConnell is too busy bashing Trump’s budget director and demanding that he give Democrats everything they want on spending levels without any parallel commitment on border funding.
Furthermore, this week the Senate is considering the fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense policy bill, which is considered a must-pass bill by both parties. Nothing within the realm of defense matters if our military is not directed to protect our own border properly, before defending the borders of broken-down states in the Middle East. Yet there is no effort to make the NDAA about our own national defense.
Also, McConnell has shown no signs of getting more aggressive to enforce Senate rules and force talking filibusters on critical bills. Thus, even if Trump wins re-election and Republicans reclaim control of the House, McConnell is not willing to use a single tool or leverage point to get the full wall funding or other enforcement priorities.
In reality, this is a policy problem, not a funding problem. It has been exactly one year since this crisis blew wide open and former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley promised a bill cancelling the Flores settlement, which is the whole catch-and-release incentive to come here illegally with a child. Shockingly, it has never been brought to the floor.
Finally, to the extent that this is a funding problem, they are funding the wrong things. We need more funding for ICE to deport people and run airlifts back to Central America. We need more funding for boats, dogs, and horses for border agents to hold the line at the border itself and prevent illegal immigrants from coming across in the first place.
Even President Obama requested a stronger supplemental funding bill for the border during the crisis of Central American teens in the summer of 2014. His July 8, 2014, request to Congress included “$879 million [for ICE] would pay for detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults traveling with children,” several hundred million in funding for the State Department to “repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America, and $5 million in a media campaign in Central America to “deliver the message that unaccompanied children are not given a permit to stay in the U.S.”
Now, keep in mind, this occurred when monthly apprehensions were roughly 40,000-60,000. Now they are 144,000. Republicans are now weaker on the border than Obama was in 2014. They are mistaken if they think they will make this about “humanitarian” aid rather than sovereignty and border security. By continuing to let in illegal immigrants, they will just expose themselves to more attacks from Democrats that Trump is running “concentration camps,” no matter how much money they spend on caring for the illegal immigrants. The best and only humanitarian solution is the same solution for border security – announce a shutoff of asylum requests and hold the line against all illegal immigration and cartels right at the line of scrimmage. Deter, defend, demagnetize is always better than incentivize, subsidize, and release.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.