Recent Op-Eds

Southern Border Crisis is a National Security Nightmare

By Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)

July 29, 2022

In June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 207,416 individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally – the highest June number ever recorded. April and May successively set records for the highest numbers for any month, ever. During the 2021 fiscal year, CBP encountered a record number of individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally – 1,734,686, to be precise.

In just the first nine months of this fiscal year, we have already exceeded last year’s record number of apprehensions. The situation at our southern border remains out of control, although you’d never know it to hear the president and his administration. The flood of illegal immigration is so great that huge numbers of CBP officers have been pulled off the border to process migrants, further straining enforcement.

A May article from the Economist reported that, “Around 60% of CBP agents have been assigned to process migrants, taking them away from field work.” That, of course, leaves our borders wide open to illegal activity, including the drug trafficking that is flooding our country with fentanyl. It also means that even with all the apprehensions the Border Patrol has made, many more individuals are getting through unstopped. It is a security nightmare. 

This ongoing humanitarian and national security crisis is the result of a president who hasn’t taken responsibility to protect our border and seriously enforce our immigration laws. On his very first day in office, President Biden rescinded the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border. He halted construction of the border wall and revoked a Trump administration order that called for the government to faithfully execute our immigration laws. Then, his Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines pausing deportations, except under certain conditions – again, all on his first day in office. President Biden effectively declared to the world that the United States’ borders were open. 

The president has also sought to significantly limit the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration laws. Deportations dropped precipitously during fiscal year 2021, as did arrests in the interior of the country. Illegal immigration – especially the kind of out-of-control illegal immigration we’re currently experiencing – has serious consequences. With CBP overstretched, it is easier for bad actors, including gang members, drug traffickers, and human smugglers, who prey on vulnerable migrants, to cross the border into our country. President Biden has talked about wanting to build a “fair, orderly, and humane” immigration system. There is nothing humane about our current situation. 

Encouraging illegal immigration, as the president’s policies have done, has contributed to a humanitarian crisis that saw at least 557 migrants die attempting to cross the southern border during fiscal year 2021. Just last month, 53 migrants died in an un-air-conditioned tractor-trailer after being smuggled across the border. It was a sobering reminder of the human cost of policies that enable illegal immigration. 

Open borders also put our communities at risk. Our country is currently in the midst of a fentanyl crisis, with fentanyl overdoses now the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45. Most of it is being trafficked across our southern border, facilitated by this ongoing security crisis. The president may think his border policies are progressive and compassionate, but they are dangerous. 

The bottom line is that the Biden administration’s policies encourage individuals to undertake the often-dangerous journey from their home countries to our southern border. I will continue to hold the administration accountable for its policies that continue to fuel this dangerous and unsustainable crisis.