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Government’s first and most important job is keeping our citizens safe – and that includes securing our borders. Strengthening our national security and keeping Americans safe should not be a partisan issue, but instead a commitment that unites all Americans.
I have seen firsthand the challenges that our border agents and officers face, and for years – including under both the current and previous administrations – I have urged members of both parties to work together to strengthen border security. Given the current crisis at the border, Congressional inaction is not an option. Senators must put partisan politics aside and vote to pass the bipartisan security package.
If we fail to act now to control the border and cannot track who is crossing into our country, then we are failing our communities. Without secure borders, we are less able to stop the spread of dangerous and illicit drugs like fentanyl, crack down on cartels, combat human trafficking, or ensure that criminals and terrorists are not sneaking into the country. Republican Senators have been saying the same thing, calling for urgent action to address the border crisis, which is why it is shameful that many are now saying that they will refuse to even open debate on the bipartisan security package.
To be clear, this legislation is the strongest bipartisan effort to secure our border in decades. It will ensure that law enforcement has operational control of the border, meaning that they can track who is trying to come into the country, assess any security threats, quickly determine who meets asylum standards – in days, not years – and deport those who do not qualify. And if attempted crossings get too high for law enforcement to handle, the legislation would mandate a shutdown of the border so that law enforcement personnel are not overwhelmed.
In addition, for years, my colleagues and I have called for more border security personnel and technology, based on what I have seen and heard on my trips to the border. To that end, the bipartisan security package provides an increase of 1,600 additional law enforcement personnel and gives them better tools and technology to stop cartels from smuggling fentanyl into the country. These are bipartisan measures that will help ensure that law enforcement officials have everything that they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. That is, in part, why the National Border Patrol Council endorsed this bill.
The bipartisan package also reforms the asylum process; the new policy would ensure that our country still lives up to our values by welcoming asylum seekers who are fleeing proven persecution – such as torture – while more quickly removing those who do not meet this standard.
To do this, the bill would raise the initial interview standard as to what kind of claims qualify for asylum, increase the number of immigration judges adjudicating asylum cases, and provide 4,000 new asylum officers to further expedite cases. People will be less likely to travel hundreds or thousands of miles, pay thousands of dollars, and break our laws to enter our country if they are going to be forced to return in a matter of days or weeks instead of years. The legislation also includes the bipartisan Afghan Adjustment Act, to help thoroughly vet and support Afghan refugees who fought alongside us in the War on Terror or are escaping persecution from the Taliban.
Congress has a responsibility to act now to address the crisis at the border; Republican Senate leaders cannot cave to political pressure instead of doing right by our country. The American people – including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – want their leaders to protect our national security. They want their children safe from illicit fentanyl and our border secure from cartels, criminals, and terrorists. That is what the American people are saying with a clear voice; the question right now is whether or not their representatives are willing to listen.
We know that we live in a dangerous and uncertain world. This bill – with its measures not only to secure our border, but also to support our allies of Ukraine and Israel in their fights against tyranny and terror – will help keep our country strong and our people safe. No matter one’s party, we should all be united in our mission of keeping America safe, secure, and free. Now is the time to do right by the American people, work together, and pass the bipartisan security package.