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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how the Biden administration’s open-border policies have helped enable the worst border crisis in our nation’s history. Thune noted that the southern border crisis is impacting communities all across the country, including those in South Dakota that are dealing with fentanyl that has been trafficked across the border from Mexico.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it only took two years.
“Two years for the president to acknowledge the crisis that has been raging along our southern border almost since the day he took office.
“Over those two years, Mr. President, we’ve seen record numbers of migrants attempting to cross our southern border.
“We’ve seen record numbers of migrants die attempting the dangerous crossing of our southern border.
“We’ve seen the Border Patrol overwhelmed, border cities overwhelmed, and dangerous drugs continue to flood across our border and reach communities around our nation.
“And yet for months and months the president did essentially nothing.
“In fact, he acted as if the crisis didn’t even exist.
“I’m glad that at long last the president seems to be acknowledging this crisis – even if his recent visit to the border was scripted and controlled.
“But it is appalling to think of how much human misery could have been avoided if the president had lived up to his national security obligations and addressed the border disaster many months ago.
“Mr. President, I suppose it’s not a surprise that the president wasn’t eager to acknowledge just how bad things were.
“Because that might have drawn extra scrutiny of the president’s border policies – policies that played a substantial role in creating this crisis.
“From the moment he took office – and even before – President Biden made it clear that border security was at the bottom of his priority list.
“On his very first day in office, President Biden rescinded the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border.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.
“Needless to say, the effect of all this was to declare to the world that the United States’ borders were effectively open.
“And we’ve seen the result:
“Two years of soaring illegal immigration.
“Since President Biden took office, there have been more than 4.5 million attempted illegal border crossings.
“To put that number in perspective, Mr. President, that’s roughly equal to the entire population of South Dakota – plus the entire population of Delaware, Wyoming, and Nebraska … and then some.
“Last month, 251,487 migrants were apprehended attempting to cross our southern border – the highest monthly number ever recorded.
“And of course, Mr. President, these numbers just refer to individuals Customs and Border Protection managed to apprehend.
“There have been a staggering 1.2 million known ‘gotaways’ since President Biden took office – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“Mr. President, President Biden has talked about wanting a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.
“Well, up until now he’s failed on all fronts.
“Encouraging illegal immigration, as the president’s policies have done, is the very opposite of compassionate and humane.
“There is nothing compassionate about policies that encourage people to attempt the dangerous trip across our southern border, to run the risk of exploitation and disease and exposure … and death.
“Nor is it compassionate to condemn border cities to dealing with a never-ending flood of illegal immigration and other cross-border illegal activity.
“On top of all that, the kind of unchecked illegal immigration we’ve been seeing is an open invitation to drug traffickers, human smugglers, and other dangerous individuals.
“Our nation is currently in the midst of a serious 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?
“Well, most of it is being trafficked across our southern border.
“And I would be very surprised if the chaos at our southern border isn’t facilitating that trafficking.
“And let’s be clear – drug trafficking across our southern border doesn’t just affect border states; it affects communities around our country.
“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.
“And, again, I would be very surprised if the chaos at our southern border hasn’t facilitated that trafficking.
“Mr. President, our country has been shaped by immigrants from around the world.
“And I am a strong supporter of legal immigration.
“I’ve repeatedly introduced legislation to open up opportunities for individuals to come from abroad and work here in the United States when employers can’t secure enough domestic labor.
“But, Mr. President, immigration has to be legal.
“For security reasons.
“For humanitarian reasons.
“And because we have a responsibility to uphold the rule of law.
“I am thankful that the president finally seems to be at least halfheartedly acknowledging our border crisis, and that he has recognized his error in rescinding a number of policies that successfully took pressure off the border.
“Now let’s see how he follows through.
“There are definitely things Congress can do to strengthen our border security, deter abuse of our asylum system, and provide resources to those serving on the front lines against trafficking and smuggling.
“We can also find ways to address some of the economic factors that influence illegal immigration by leveraging legal pathways to allow immigrants to fill jobs that American employers are struggling to fill.
“But the fact of the matter is, Mr. President, while there are things Congress can do to help, the president doesn’t need an act of Congress to move forward on securing the border.
“The president just needs to enforce the law.
“For the sake of our national security, our overwhelmed border communities, and the individuals tempted to make the dangerous journey across the border, let’s hope he does so.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”