On Wednesday, Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and dozens of other House Republicans traveled to Eagle Pass, Texas, a city that has garnered national attention in recent weeks due to it being on the front line of a recent surge in illegal border crossings.
House Republicans have turned much of their focus in Congress toward border security recently, as a record number of migrants poured across the border in December.
With more and more Republicans becoming skeptical of the war in Ukraine as it drags on, President Biden has attempted to bundle border spending together with a large foreign aid package. However, many Congressional Republicans have demanded changes to existing immigration laws in addition to just an increase in funding.
In May of 2023, House Republicans passed H.R.2, a bill titled Secure the Border Act of 2023. This bill includes a demand for the resumption of border wall construction, new more stringent demands on asylum eligibility, and higher penalties for visa overstays.
H.R.2 passed without any votes from Democrats, highlighting the partisan divide on immigration reforms.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) has criticized proposed Republican immigration reforms. “The Republican approach is anchored in xenophobia and fanning the flames of hatred and distrust and of irresponsible policies that will do nothing to solve the problem.”, said Jeffries.
On their visit to Eagle Pass, House Republicans toured a Customs and Border Protection processing facility and saw sites that were recently flooded with migrants. In December, the railroad crossing into Eagle Pass was shut down by Customs and Border Protection temporarily due to smuggling operations using trains to move migrants illegally into America.
In a press conference held in the afternoon, Republican House leaders reiterated that border security is their highest legislative priority.
Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson considered the trip to Eagle Pass to be an “eye-opener”, after having met with local residents and officials, sheriffs, and the Texas Department of Safety.
Speaking to the urgency of the problem at a national scale, Rep. Johnson proclaimed, “Every state in America is now a border state.”
Johnson also called the border crisis an “unmitigated disaster” and pointed out that December had the most recorded illegal border crossings ever.
Republicans have heaped blame for the current illegal immigration problem onto President Biden, stating that it is due to his policies.
“What is more tragic, is it is a disaster of the President’s own design.”, said Rep. Johnson.
Rep. Johnson blamed the Biden administration for rolling back border security measures put in place under the Trump administration. He remarked that on Biden’s first day in office, he stopped the construction of the southern border wall and ended the remain-in-Mexico policy.
Johnson placed his confidence in the Trump-era policies, proclaiming that reinstating the remain-in-Mexico policy alone could curb the rate of attempted migrant crossings by 70% or more.
Johnson also put his support behind Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to prevent illegal immigration.
“Right here in Texas Governor Abbott has heroically done more to enforce the law than the President.”, said Johnson.
Gov. Abbott recently signed several bills into Texas state law that gave state authorities greater power to enforce border security and created penalties in Texas state law for illegal immigration.
Rep. Johnson pointed out that the federal government has sued Texas in response to these new state laws. This lawsuit, in Johnson’s eyes, was the Biden administration undermining any authorities who are trying to address the border crisis.
The House Republicans present also expressed their displeasure with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
Not mincing words, Homeland Security Committee Chair Rep. Mark Green (R-Tennessee) called Mayorkas “The greatest domestic threat to the national security, and the safety of the American people”.
Rep. Green accused Mayorkas of refusing to enforce immigration laws passed by the U.S. Congress, defying multiple court orders, and lying under oath when he testified in front of Congress.
Due to these accusations, Republicans have announced plans for impeachment hearings against Secretary Mayorkas. On January 10, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold an impeachment hearing against Mayorkas.
Rep. Johnson and House Republicans appear resolute in their wish for H.R.2 to pass the Senate in its current form.
Rep. Johnson remarked that the trip to the border only made House Republicans “more resolved, to stand for sanity and the American people.”
Rep. Johnson ended his short speech by issuing an ultimatum to President Biden.
Johnson stated, “If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it had better begin by defending America’s national security. It begins here at the southern border.”