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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about the worsening national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Thune noted that a border security package must include reforms to the asylum and parole systems in order to reverse some of President Biden’s failed policies that have fueled three successive record-breaking years of illegal immigration.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, 302,000.
“That’s how many migrants U.S. Customs and Border Protection is reported to have encountered at our southern border in December.
“To put that number in perspective, 302,000 is equivalent to roughly a third of the population of South Dakota.
“Or almost half of the population of Vermont.
“Or more than half of the population of Wyoming.
“And that’s just one month of encounters.
“Just when you think the Biden border crisis can’t get any worse … it gets worse.
“Mr. President, the situation at our southern border is unsustainable.
“We’ve had three successive record-breaking years of illegal immigration at the southern border under President Biden.
“And if the current trend continues, we’re well on our way to a fourth.
“The Border Patrol is stretched thin.
“Border towns are stretched thin.
“And other major U.S. cities are struggling to deal with an influx of migrants.
“New York City is currently facing cuts to city services – including a massive 13.5 percent cut to its police force – as a result of the migrant crisis.
“And while the practical challenges posed by this immigration crisis are massive, even more worrisome are the national security challenges.
“Our country cannot be secure while we have hundreds of thousands of migrants flooding across our southern border each month – frequently to end up released into the U.S. with court dates years into the future.
“And even more concerning are those who are making their way into our country without being apprehended.
“Since October 1 alone, there have been more than 83,000 known gotaways at our southern border – individuals the Border Patrol saw but was unable to apprehend.
“That’s 83,000 individuals making their way into our country without our having the slightest idea of who they are, what they’re doing here, or where in the United States they’re planning to travel.
“And while some of them may simply be in search of a better life, others may be dangerous individuals who should not be entering our country.
“And let’s be very clear.
“There are dangerous individuals who are trying to make their way into our country.
“Between October and November alone, the Border Patrol arrested 30 individuals on the terrorist watchlist attempting to make their way across our southern border.
“Fiscal year 2023 saw 169 individuals on the terrorist watchlist arrested at our southern border.
“That was a substantial increase over fiscal year 2022, which was itself a substantial increase over fiscal year 2021.
“That’s not a good trajectory, Mr. President.
“And, again, these numbers only refer to individuals the Border Patrol actually apprehended.
“There were 670,000 known gotaways during fiscal year 2023 – how many of them were terrorists, criminals, or other dangerous individuals?
“We don’t know.
“What we do know, however, is that we must regain operational control of the southern border.
“And since President Biden has failed to do so – and since his policies have encouraged illegal immigration – Congress must act.
“I am pleased that Democrats have finally come to the table in a real way to discuss needed reforms.
“But I want to say again that the only acceptable reforms are reforms that will actually meet the challenge at our southern border.
“Republicans will not sign off on cosmetic measures or superficial tweaks – or simply throwing money at the problem.
“We owe the American people a secure border – and we will not agree to anything less than real reforms.
“And that means not just additional funding for border security measures and enforcement personnel, but a meaningful reform of our asylum and parole systems, which have been abused under the Biden administration.
“A recent CBS News article noted, and I quote, ‘Over the past few years … the U.S. asylum system has become a proxy process for migrants to stay and work in America, irrespective of whether they have valid claims or not,’ unquote.
“That is not acceptable.
“Our asylum system is meant to be a refuge for those who face genuine danger from persecution.
“It is not meant to serve as temporary de facto amnesty for those who simply would prefer to live in the United States.
“And our parole system is being abused as well.
“The Biden Department of Homeland Security’s overly permissive application of parole has allowed hundreds of thousands of individuals who have not been granted legal status and who may not have a case for remaining in the United States to take up residence in our country – once again providing de facto amnesty, albeit temporary.
“The Biden administration’s abuse of our asylum and parole systems has to be reined in if we hope to stem the tide of individuals flooding into the country.
“And so any acceptable border security reform must include reform of these systems.
“Mr. President, while it may have taken them a long time to get here, I am, as I said, encouraged that at least Democrats have finally come to the table.
“And I hope that sooner rather than later, we will arrive at an agreement.
“We’ve had three years of the Biden border crisis.
“Let’s make sure we don’t have a fourth.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”