Recent Op-Eds

Border Security Must be a Priority

By Sen. John Thune

May 5, 2023

Five million illegal immigrants have been encountered at the southern border during the Biden administration, more than the population of 26 individual states. Another 1.4 million illegal immigrants, known as “gotaways,” have evaded Border Patrol. And 70 individuals on the terrorist watch list were apprehended in the last six months. But, for over two years, the Biden administration has turned a blind eye to this crisis and rescinded many of the policies that have secured the border in the past.

The number of border crossings only tells part of the tragic story of the border crisis, however. In the last six months alone, Border Patrol seized almost seven tons of fentanyl. Fentanyl entering the United States from Mexico is itself a crisis – fentanyl overdose deaths quadrupled between 2016 and 2021, and it is the leading cause of death for adults age 18-45. And law enforcement officials have attributed the flow of drugs into South Dakota communities to the crisis at our southern border.

Sadly, we may have not seen the worst of what this administration has in store at the southern border. On May 11, the Biden administration will end the use of pandemic-era Title 42 authorities, which have enabled Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to quickly turn back illegal immigrants. While CBP has been overwhelmed thanks to the president dismantling the effective border security policies of his predecessor, Title 42 has been a critical tool for CBP to prevent the open-border crisis from becoming a full-blown catastrophe. Now, Border Patrol expects as many as 13,000 illegal immigrants to cross the border each day when Title 42 is lifted. And border communities, which are already at capacity, are bracing for more migrants, declaring states of emergency, and seeking additional resources. 

The Biden administration has largely ignored the border crisis that its early policies helped cause. Now, as this crisis is on the verge of growing much worse, the president has put forward eleventh-hour policy changes attempting to address the expected surge, including sending 1,500 active-duty troops to the border and reinstating some of the very policies he revoked under political pressure. While I hope these actions indicate the president will finally give the border crisis due attention, these measures are too little, too late. What’s needed at the border is presidential leadership, which has been sorely lacking for more than two years now, to uphold the laws on the books and ensure law enforcement can do its job.

For over a year, Republicans, and even some Democrats, warned the president about lifting Title 42 without an adequate plan in place to address the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis. His failure to lead risks further overwhelming Border Patrol, which could allow for drugs, criminals, and terrorists to enter the country undetected and unimpeded while inundating our legal asylum and immigration systems. It’s long past time for the president to seriously acknowledge the crisis, reverse course, and secure the border. I will continue to hold this administration accountable and support legislation to give the Border Patrol the policies and resources they need to help keep our country safe and secure.