Immigration hawks warn Congress that Senate deal will handcuff future administrations on securing border

FIRST ON FOX: A coalition of hawkish immigration groups is warning congressional leaders that a border deal released this week by the Senate as part of a supplemental spending bill to fund Ukraine and Israel would limit the ability of future administrations to tackle illegal immigration.

“The legislative text confirms our worst suspicions: if enacted, the bill would codify the border crisis and severely limit any future enforcement-minded administration from securing the border,” the groups, led by the Heritage Foundation, said in a letter to congressional leaders.

Senate negotiators released the $118 billion supplemental spending deal late Sunday, which includes funding for Ukraine, Israel and $20 billion in funding for border and immigration-related matters.

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It includes a new temporary emergency border authority to mandate Title 42-style expulsions of migrants when migration levels exceed 5,000 a day over a seven-day rolling average, and it narrows asylum eligibility while expediting the process, provides additional work permits for asylum seekers and funds a massive increase in staffing for Customs and Border Protection and asylum officers.

It also increases temporary visas and green cards, while establishing an expedited pathway for Afghans who were evacuated to the U.S. The legislation also includes $1.4 billion in FEMA funding for non-governmental organizations and cities to help settle migrants and $650 million to build and reinforce the border wall. It will also provide $450 million to countries to help them remove and integrate illegal immigrants back into their countries.

“The bipartisan agreement in the Senate is tough, fair, and takes meaningful steps to address the challenges our country faces after decades of Congressional inaction,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

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Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., an author of the package, said this week that the bar on asylum eligibility would go a long way to fixing the crisis and change the operating stance at the border.

“New bars to asylum eligibility will stop the criminal cartels from exploiting our currently weak immigration laws. The bill also has new emergency authorities to shut down the border when the border is overrun, new hiring authorities to quickly increase officers, and new hearing authorities to quickly apply consequences for illegal crossings,” he said. “It changes our border from catch and release to detain and deport.” 

However, the bill has faced a firestorm of opposition from the right who remain unconvinced, and the coalition of hawkish groups say that it does not do enough to end catch-and-release and argues it replaces “current statutory monitoring with a mass release program of weaker discretionary ‘monitoring’” while failing to close loopholes for children to be “recycled” by cartels.

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“The advertised reform of standards in the asylum process would not significantly prevent asylum fraud, and when coupled with the supercharged catch-and-release, would only continue the flood of asylum abuse as a means of entry into the U.S.,” they said. 

“Moreover, the bill would expand funding to fund sanctuary cities and the non-governmental organization’s secretive infrastructure that processes, transports, and provides services for illegal aliens in the United States,” they added.

Groups on the letter include the American First Policy Institute, Numbers USA, Border 911, the Immigration Accountability Project, the Federation for American Immigration Reform and Citizens for Renewing America. It also includes former Trump officials including former acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, acting Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Mark Morgan, former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott, former acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, former ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau and former Office of Management and Budget Director Ross Vought.

The coalition of groups has previously shared the demand by Republicans in the House that the House border bill passed last year — H.R. 2 — must be included as part of any supplemental spending agreement. They have argued that anything that falls short of that is insufficient at a time of a historic border crisis.

They also argue that President Biden currently has the authority to end the border crisis without legislation, but have argued in favor of H.R. 2 in order to “close the loopholes that have been weaponized, not because new authorities to secure the border are needed.”

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As it stands, they warn the package will turn the border crisis into a “political talking point.”

“The only measure of the effectiveness of border security policy is whether it actually secures the border. This legislative package does not secure the border, and it will severely curtail the ability of future administrations to do so,” they said.