Recent Op-Eds

It’s Time to Get the Border Under Control

By Sen. John Thune

December 15, 2023

Every year of the Biden administration, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border has set a new record. Lately, the problem has grown worse. In recent weeks, 10,000-12,000 illegal immigrants per day have been caught trying to enter the United States illegally. Without significant policy changes, this concerning trend is likely to continue.

Jeh Johnson, who led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under President Obama, once said that 1,000 immigrants per day would overwhelm the system. We’re now seeing as much as 10 times as many border crossings per day on a regular basis. That means in a year we could see as many as 4 million people trying to cross the border – more than four times as many people who live in South Dakota. Johnson said he couldn’t imagine what 4,000 per day would look like, but described it as “truly in a crisis.” If 4,000 is a crisis, how do we describe a situation that’s now up to three times worse?

The number of individuals trying to enter the country is not only overwhelming Customs and Border Protection. DHS has also warned that the increased number of migrants could facilitate terrorists and criminals entering the United States. In October alone, Border Patrol caught more than 1,500 criminals trying to cross the border – 93 of them had outstanding warrants. Fifty gang members and 12 individuals on the terrorist watch list were also caught. And these are only the individuals being caught. Also in October, an average of 1,000 people per day entered the country without being apprehended.

The border crisis is a national security crisis, which is why my Senate Republican colleagues and I have insisted that substantial border policy changes be included in any national security supplemental spending package. We can’t seriously say we are defending our national security interests while allowing the status quo at the border to continue. We have to slow the flow of migrants, and that requires meaningful policy changes. We need to allow Border Patrol to reclaim control of the border, and the federal government must remove incentives that are encouraging high numbers of migrants from around the world to make a dangerous journey to our southern border.

To put it as plainly as possible, this crisis is the result of policy choices made by the Biden administration. It’s the predictable result of President Biden choosing to end the policies of his predecessor. As this crisis has grown worse for close to three years, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress have demonstrated little interest in changing course. My Republican colleagues and I have been sounding the alarm for years about it, and it’s long past time to enact meaningful policies – not window dressing – that address this crisis. As recent events have shown, the world is an increasingly dangerous place, and we can’t wait any longer to get the southern border under control.

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said, “I’ve never seen a time when all the threats or so many of the threats are all elevated at exactly the same time.” Amid such dire warnings, the crisis at the southern border is beyond unacceptable. We need to secure the border, slow the flow of migrants, and keep bad actors from taking advantage of the border crisis to get into our country and possibly do Americans harm. My Republican colleagues and I are committed to these goals, and I hope we will soon secure the policy changes that will achieve them.