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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how the Biden administration’s deliberate refusal to secure the southern border is affecting community safety all across the country, including in South Dakota. Thune noted that the high volume of fentanyl being trafficked across the southern border continues to fuel our nation’s opioid crisis, and fentanyl overdoses are currently the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, the Biden border crisis continues to rage.
“Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 207,416 individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally – the highest June number ever recorded.
“And April and May successively set records for the highest numbers for any month, ever.
“During the 2021 fiscal year, Customs and Border Protection encountered a record number of individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally.
“1,734,686, to be precise.
“Well, Mr. President, we still have three months to go for this fiscal year, but we’ve already exceeded last year’s number … by more than 11,000.
“In just nine months, we have already exceeded last year’s record number of apprehensions.
“The situation at our southern border is out of control.
“Although you’d never know it to hear the president and his administration.
“‘The border is secure,’ the president’s homeland security secretary said just a few days ago.
“‘The border is secure.’
“My only question, Mr. President, is how he said that with a straight face.
“Our southern border is the opposite of secure.
“It is in crisis.
“The flood of illegal immigration is so great that huge numbers of Customs and Border Protection officers have been pulled off the border to process migrants.
“A May article from the Economist reported that, quote, ‘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.
“One source reports that so far this fiscal year, there have been more than half a million ‘gotaways’ – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“The Economist article I mentioned also noted, and I quote, ‘One border expert estimates that less than 20% of people trying to cross the border undetected are stopped.’
“Less than 20 percent, Mr. President.
“That is a security nightmare.
“Our Customs and Border Protection agents are giving this job their all, but there’s no way for them to keep up with the flood of illegal immigration – especially when they’re being pulled off the border to process migrants.
“Mr. President, it is President Biden’s job to help stop this border crisis.
“But when he’s not pretending this crisis doesn’t exist, he’s taking actions that are contributing to this disaster.
“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.
“He revoked a Trump administration order that called for the government to faithfully execute our immigration laws.
“And his Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines pausing deportations except under certain conditions.
“All on his first day in office.
“Needless to say, the effect of all this was to declare to the world that the United States’ borders were effectively open.
“And even as huge numbers of illegal immigrants pour across our southern border, he has continued to build on those actions.
“The president has 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.
“In March of this year, the administration rescinded a 2019 rule expanding expedited removal for individuals here illegally.
“And, of course, the administration is still attempting to remove Title 42 COVID-19 restrictions with no viable plan to control the resulting surge in illegal immigration.
“Mr. President, illegal immigration – especially the kind of out-of-control illegal immigration we’re currently experiencing – has serious consequences.
“I’ve already mentioned some of the security risks it presents.
“With Customs and Border Protection overstretched, it is easier for bad actors to cross the border into our country.
“Gang members, drug traffickers, human smugglers … the list goes on.
“Our country is currently in the midst of a fentanyl crisis.
“In fact, right now fentanyl overdose is the leading cause of death for U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 45.
“And where is all this fentanyl coming from?
“Most of it is being trafficked across our southern border.
“And the current border situation is undoubtedly facilitating that trafficking.
“Illegal immigration is financially costly as well.
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement is currently running out of money for the year, thanks in part to the out-of-control situation at our southern border.
“Mr. President, President Biden has talked about wanting to build a ‘fair, orderly, and humane’ immigration system.
“Well, Mr. President, 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.
“The president may think his border policies are compassionate.
“He is wrong.
“Policies that encourage illegal immigration – that encourage individuals to undertake the often-dangerous journey across our southern border, often at the mercy of human smugglers – are the very opposite of compassionate.
“Mr. President, I’d like to think that the president would wake up to the dangerous situation we’re in and take action to help stem the flood of illegal immigration at our southern border.
“But after a year and a half of his administration’s neglecting this crisis, I’m not getting my hopes up.
“I’m afraid that like inflation, out-of-control illegal immigration has become a fact of life in the Biden presidency.
“And as with inflation, Americans – and vulnerable individuals attempting to enter our country – will be left to suffer the consequences.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”