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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about his recent trip to the Rio Grande Valley at the U.S. southern border.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, at the end of last week I joined several of my Republican colleagues to travel down to our southern border.
“It was my second visit to the border during the Biden administration – my first was almost exactly two years ago, after border numbers started to soar in the wake of the president taking office.
“And unfortunately little has changed since my last visit.
“Thanks to the fact that President Biden spent the first two years of his presidency refusing to even acknowledge this crisis, much less actually address it, we are still facing a disastrous situation at our southern border.
“I talked to Border Patrol agents who have spent two years dealing with record-breaking numbers of illegal immigrants – and are still looking for support from the Biden administration that never seems to come.
“Again and again, Border Patrol agents told me that not only do they not feel supported by the Biden administration, they feel like the Biden administration has actually impeded their ability to do their jobs.
“‘Just let us enforce the law,’ one agent told me – something that was echoed by other law enforcement officers we spoke to.
“To give just one example, we heard from the individual in charge of the border for the state of Texas who told us that they have a number of panels for the congressionally mandated border wall that are ready to go into the ground.
“The state of Texas and law enforcement personnel would like to install these panels to help stem the flood of illegal immigration.
“But the Biden administration has so far refused to grant the permissions needed.
“I can only imagine how much harder their jobs will get when the Biden administration ends Title 42 border policies on May 11.
“I was also stunned to learn that President Biden’s supposed border czar – Vice-President Harris – has never spoken to the border czar for the state of Texas or to the leadership of the Border Patrol down there.
“The person who is supposedly in charge of addressing the chaos at our southern border has never spoken to the individual in charge of border issues for the state that makes up the greatest portion of our southern border.
“Or to Border Patrol leadership in the state.
“Mr. President, from his campaign on, President Biden was fixated on distancing himself from the immigration policies of his predecessor – and satisfying the open-borders caucus that makes up a huge part of today’s Democrat Party.
“The moment he took office he set about dismantling the immigration policies of the previous administration – without, apparently, taking even a minute to think about what effect his actions would have.
“Well, we know what effect they had.
“President Biden’s actions declared to the world that the United States’ borders were effectively open.
“And we’ve seen two years of record-breaking illegal immigration as a result.
“Mr. President, in January President Biden finally – finally – began to take some steps to address the crisis at our southern border, including reestablishing versions of some of the border security policies he did away with on taking office.
“Predictably, even the mild steps he’s taken have garnered criticism from open-borders Democrats, who apparently think border security and border enforcement are somehow uncompassionate.
“Well, Mr. President, you know what’s uncompassionate?
“The kind of lax border policies we’ve had over the past two years that have encouraged individuals to attempt to illegally cross our borders.
“That have encouraged individuals to pay huge sums to dangerous individuals for illegal passage.
“That have exposed unaccompanied children to the hazards of extreme weather and criminal activity – or exploitation by sponsors once they arrive.
“At least 853 people died attempting to cross our southern border illegally in fiscal year 2022 – the highest number ever recorded.
“That’s a lot of lives lost, Mr. President.
“And there is nothing compassionate about the policies that encouraged them to attempt the crossing.
“Mr. President, I think many people think of those attempting to illegally cross our southern border as economically disadvantaged individuals from Mexico or Central America.
“But the truth is that U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehends individuals at our southern border from all over the world – some of them from hostile countries.
“One law enforcement official I spoke with said that the number of Chinese nationals attempting to cross illegally in the Rio Grande Valley sector has increased by 488 percent.
“I’ve no doubt some of those were individuals merely hoping to relocate from communist China to a land of freedom.
“But it’s equally possible that some were hostile agents of the Chinese government.
“And that’s a serious security concern.
“In fiscal year 2022, Customs and Border Protection apprehended 98 individuals on the terror watch list attempting to cross our southern border.
“That’s an average of one approximately every three or four days.
“And that’s just the individuals Customs and Border Protection managed to apprehend.
“There have been at least 1.2 million known ‘gotaways’ – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend – since President Biden took office.
“And it’s more than possible that terrorists or agents of hostile powers have been able to make their way into our country undetected while our Border Patrol agents have been struggling to deal with the record-breaking number of individuals coming across the border illegally.
“Mr. President, the chaos we’ve been experiencing at our southern border is an invitation to dangerous individuals – from terrorists to drug cartels.
“Our nation is currently in the midst of a fentanyl crisis – which is largely being fueled by fentanyl trafficked across our southern border.
“And I’d be very surprised if the flow of fentanyl into this country isn’t being facilitated by the chaos at our border.
“Our current fentanyl crisis is also a good reminder that illegal activity at our southern border affects every state in the union.
“I’ve talked to sheriffs in South Dakota – about as far from our southern border as you can get – who are dealing with fentanyl that has been trafficked across the border from Mexico.
“Last year Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead estimated that 90 percent of fentanyl and methamphetamine in our state comes through Mexico.
“Mr. President, every state is a border state.
“And record-breaking floods of illegal immigration at our southern border aren’t just a problem for actual border states like Texas and Arizona, they’re a problem for every state in the country.
“Mr. President, for two years the Biden administration has been missing in action at our southern border.
“And while I’m glad that President Biden is – finally – at least halfheartedly acknowledging that we are facing a border crisis, I want to see him follow through on actually enforcing our laws.
“He has all the authority he needs to secure our border.
“And he owes the American people nothing less.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”