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Grassley Q&A: Border Security Update

Q: What grade do you give the Biden administration for its immigration policies?

A: President Biden’s promises on the campaign trail, as well as the administration’s messaging and policies enacted during his First 100 Days have created chaos, uncertainty and confusion at our southern border. The Biden administration’s missteps are resulting in negative consequences. Consider that foreign leaders say Biden’s policies have incentivized migrants to make the trip to our southern border and created conditions that allow the smuggling operations of organized crime and gangs to thrive. Tasked with leading the administration’s effort to address the “root causes” of migration, Vice President Harris traveled to Mexico and Guatemala in June. There, the president of Guatemala delivered a blunt message when asked by the press why his citizens are leaving Guatemala for the United States since President Trump left office. He said, “The message changed to, ‘We are going to reunite families and we are going to reunite children.’ The very next day the coyotes here were organizing groups of children to take to the United States.”

Border encounters are reaching 20-year highs, according to federal statistics. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported it had encountered 180,034 individuals attempting to cross into the United States along our southern border in May. That’s up 675 percent from May 2020. Of those, 14,158 were unaccompanied minors. That’s up 1,305 percent from last May. For family units, it’s up 4,143 percent. Despite these staggering numbers, the Biden administration has announced it’s expanding an Obama era program to give Central American youth a pathway to come to the United States. Some Democratic lawmakers want to extend legal status to virtually any child who was brought to America illegally by their parents. They have proposed legislation that would wrap millions of illegal immigrants who have no connection to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program into an amnesty blanket, including some with criminal records. Such proposals won’t stem the flow of illegal immigration today or 20 years from now.

During my visit to the Rio Grande Valley in March, I saw first-hand what happens when the federal government telegraphs an amnesty message. Federal shelters were overflowing with unaccompanied minors. A month later, Gov. Kim Reynolds got the runaround from the federal bureaucracy when state officials asked about a chartered flight with 19 unaccompanied children landing at the Des Moines airport in April. Thankfully, my office was finally able to help the Iowa governor’s office get confirmation about what happened.

 Q: What needs to happen to secure the border?

A: It’s inconceivable that neither the president nor the vice president has visited our southern border to see what’s happening since taking office. Members of Congress who represent border states have asked for more federal resources to help secure the border, and at least one Democratic lawmaker has called for Biden and Harris to come talk with local officials who are facing tremendous public safety challenges.

Border patrol agents I spoke with in March said they advised the Biden administration not to rescind the “Remain in Mexico” policy implemented by President Trump. Their recommendation was ignored. Now, border patrol and local law enforcement officials say they’re encountering human smuggling, drug trafficking and other violent crimes. According to the CBP, drug seizures nationwide were up 18 percent from April to May. Seizures of methamphetamine increased 53 percent and seizures of fentanyl (a potent synthetic opioid) are 56 percent higher than all of fiscal year 2020. That’s the last thing America needs as we struggle to overcome the opioid crisis. I’ve amplified the urgency for Congress and the administration to stop the flow of this fatal poison from killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. The Drug Enforcement Administration recently announced an effort to disrupt the supply networks operated by Mexican transnational crime rings. Border security is vital to keeping American families and communities safe from illicit drugs and crime that follows.

As former chairman and current ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve worked to build consensus on immigration reform proposals that uphold the rule of law, secure the border and offer a fair, permanent solution for DACA-eligible individuals and those who respect our immigration laws. Blanket amnesty and open borders are not sensible or sustainable for our sovereignty and national security.

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