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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border and the dire need for Congress to produce meaningful border security changes. Thune noted that President Biden’s failed policies have resulted in three years of record migrant encounters at the southern border and unprecedented abuses of the asylum and parole systems.
Thune also spoke at a press conference today about the Senate’s border negotiations. He noted that the crisis at the southern border is both unsustainable and dangerous, and Congress can’t afford to wait until there’s new leadership in the White House.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, over the weekend a reporter asked President Biden if the situation at our southern border is a crisis.
“‘No,’ the president said.
“Mr. President, I would express surprise, but unfortunately failing to recognize crises is pretty much par for the course for President Biden – see also his inflation crisis or his withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“But the president’s answer is still notable for the complete disconnection it shows from the reality at the border.
“And it demonstrates why it has become absolutely necessary for Congress to step in.
“Because the situation at our southern border is in fact a crisis – a logistical crisis, a humanitarian crisis, and a national security crisis.
“For the president’s edification, I’ll just run through the numbers.
“We have had three record-breaking years of illegal immigration at our southern border on President Biden’s watch.
“Fiscal year 2021 saw a record-breaking 1,734,686 migrant encounters at our southern border.
“Then fiscal year 2022 broke that record.
“And then fiscal year 2023 broke that record.
“And if fiscal year 2024 continues on its current trajectory, we will end up breaking the record yet again.
“December reportedly saw a staggering 302,000 migrant encounters at our southern border – the highest monthly number ever recorded.
“I cannot emphasize enough just how large of a number that is.
“As my colleague from Pennsylvania said of September’s border number, it’s like having the city of Pittsburgh show up at the border.
“In just one month.
“Mr. President, American cities – blue cities now as well as border cities – are staggering under the influx of migrants.
“Major cities like Chicago and New York are running up big bills and have begged for more federal money.
“And that’s just to deal with a fraction of the number of migrants we saw cross the border in December alone.
“But more than a logistical crisis – and, of course, a humanitarian crisis, since migrants are exposed to significant dangers on their journey to the border – this is a national security crisis.
“Our country cannot be secure while we have hundreds of thousands of individuals illegally flooding across our southern border every month.
“The volume alone smooths the way for terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous individuals to enter our country.
“And there are dangerous individuals trying to enter our country.
“In the first two months of fiscal year 2024, 30 individuals on the terrorist watchlist were apprehended attempting to cross our southern border – in other words, roughly one every other day.
“Fiscal year 2023 saw 169 individuals on the terrorist watchlist apprehended at our southern border – a sharp increase over fiscal year 2022, which was itself a sharp increase over fiscal year 2021.
“That’s a dangerous trajectory, Mr. President.
“And of course these numbers only refer to individuals the Border Patrol actually apprehended.
“Since October 1 alone, there have been more than 83,000 known gotaways – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“And there is no telling how many unknown gotaways there have been over the same period.
“How many of those individuals were terrorists, criminals, or other dangerous individuals?
“We have no way of knowing.
“What we do know is that dangerous people are trying to make their way into our country.
“And there is no question that the chaos at our southern border is smoothing the way for them.
“Mr. President, President Biden bears a lot of responsibility for the three years of chaos we’ve seen at our southern border.
“From the day he took office, when he rescinded the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border, President Biden made it clear that border security was at the bottom of his priority list.
“And over the three years since, he has turned our southern border into a magnet for illegal migration – from repealing border policies of his predecessor to misusing our asylum and parole systems, which are now providing temporary amnesty to hundreds of thousands of individuals here illegally.
“And as his answer to the reporter over the weekend once again made clear, he still does not understand the magnitude of the resulting crisis – in fact, he doesn’t understand that it’s a crisis at all.
“And so it is time for Congress to step in.
“After months of delay, Democrats have finally come to the table, and I am encouraged by the ongoing talks.
“And I am hopeful that in the coming days, we will see final agreement on real border security legislation – not cosmetic fixes or superficial tweaks, but real reforms that will allow us to stem the flow at our southern border.
“Senator Lankford deserves a ton of credit for staying at the negotiating table to hammer home the reality of the situation to Democrats and craft long-term changes to our border policies that will decrease the flow to the border and remove individuals already within the country.
“And I am grateful for his work.
“Mr. President, three years of chaos is long enough.
“We owe it to the American people to get this crisis under control.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”