U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed how President Biden’s 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.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, three weeks ago a federal judge blocked the Biden administration from lifting Title 42 COVID restrictions.
“It was a welcome decision that will hopefully help stave off an additional flood of illegal immigration at our southern border.
“But it’s been pretty much the only bit of good news on this front.
“Because the situation at our southern border, Mr. President, is out of control.
“In April, U.S. Customs and Border Protection encountered 234,088 individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally.
“That is the highest monthly number ever recorded.
“The Border Patrol is stretched thin.
“A recent article reported that, quote, ‘Around 60 percent of CBP agents have been assigned to process migrants, taking them away from field work.’
“Detention facilities are overflowing.
“And massive numbers of illegal immigrants are being released into the country, many of whom will never report to an immigration office as ordered.
“In short, our southern border is in chaos.
“And if Title 42 is lifted, the situation is almost guaranteed to become much worse.
“The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that as many as 18,000 migrants per day could attempt to cross our southern border if the policy is lifted.
“That’s more than double the number we’re currently experiencing.
“And the administration has yet to implement any plan for dealing with such a situation.
“Mr. President, illegal immigration – especially the kind of out-of-control illegal immigration we’re now experiencing – has serious consequences.
“Criminals, including human traffickers, drug smugglers, and gang members, regularly attempt to cross our southern border.
“And the worse the situation at our border gets, the easier it is for these individuals to make their way into the United States.
“And that has consequences for our entire country.
“South Dakota law enforcement officials tell me that they’re seizing drugs that they can trace directly back to the cartels who smuggle these drugs across the border.
“Our country is currently in the midst of a 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?
“Most of it is being trafficked across our southern border.
“And when more and more of our Customs and Border Protection agents have been pulled off the border to process migrants, it’s pretty much a guarantee that drug smugglers are having a much easier time getting their product into the country.
“I mentioned that Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 234,000 individuals attempting to cross our southern border illegally in April.
“But that number only reflects individuals CBP actually apprehended.
“In April, Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas testified that in addition to the 1.7 million apprehensions at the southern border in fiscal year 2021, there were more than 389,000 ‘gotaways’ – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“The Economist recently reported, and I quote, ‘One border expert estimates that less than 20 percent of people trying to cross the border undetected are stopped.’
“Mr. President, the administration has attempted to suggest that the surge in illegal immigration we’ve been experiencing since President Biden took office is in large part a function of conditions in other countries.
“But, Mr. President, while these factors exist and there are legitimate asylum claims at the border, that doesn’t mean there is nothing the president can do about our out-of-control border situation.
“Better border security is well within the president’s control.
“He’s just not interested in putting it in place.
“And his vice president has all but formally abandoned her role as border czar.
“In fact, since taking office, the president has invited increased illegal immigration with the policy decisions he’s made.
“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 in office.
“Needless to say, the effect of all this was to declare to the world that the United States’ borders were effectively open.
“And of course the president’s anti-border-security efforts didn’t end there.
“The president has significantly limited the ability of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration laws.
“Deportations dropped precipitously during fiscal year 2021, as did arrests in the interior of the country.
“In March, the administration rescinded a 2019 rule expanding expedited removal for individuals here illegally.
“And, of course, the administration is attempting to remove Title 42 COVID-19 restrictions with no viable plan to control the resulting surge in illegal immigration.
“Mr. President, President Biden has made it known that he wants to create a “fair, orderly, and humane” immigration system.
“Well, he’s failing on all fronts.
“I don’t need to tell anyone that the situation at the southern border right now is far from orderly.
“It’s also not humane.
“The president and other members of his party tend to convey an attitude that strong border security and enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws are somehow not compassionate or humane.
“Well, they’re wrong.
“We’re seeing the effects of the president’s anti-border-security policies at our southern border right now.
“And the results are neither compassionate nor humane.
“Encouraging individuals to make the oftentimes dangerous journey to our southern border in the hopes that they will be able to slip across illegally is not humane.
“Encouraging families – and at times unaccompanied children – to expose themselves to the dangers of heat and the elements and human trafficking is not compassionate.
“At least 557 migrants died attempting to cross the southern border during fiscal year 2021 – a record number.
“How many of them were encouraged to make the journey by the president’s lax border policies?
“And I haven’t even mentioned the lack of compassion and humanity the president displays for Americans affected by the illegal immigration crisis.
“Straining the resources of U.S. border communities by smoothing the way for illegal immigration and cross-border criminal activity is not compassionate.
“Making it easier for cartels to flood our nation with fentanyl is not humane.
“Mr. President, the president – any president – has a special responsibility for our nation’s security.
“And that includes securing our nation’s border.
“So far President Biden has spectacularly failed to meet that responsibility.
“This week, a caravan of thousands has reportedly started working its way north through Mexico, aligning with the Summit of the Americas.
“It’s long past time for the president to get serious about the border crisis he has created, and this summit could be an opportunity for him to finally take action.
“I hope he’ll reverse his current course before his administration’s signature accomplishment ends up being a legacy of chaos at our southern border.”