Until two weeks ago, blame for the crisis at the border could be placed on both Democrats and Republicans in Congress who failed for decades to address America’s broken immigration system.
But that plague on both houses should have ended when most Senate Republicans banded together with a handful of Democrats to reject a sweeping national security and border reform that their leadership helped negotiate for months.
Then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and later House Speaker Mike Johnson had demanded that the crisis on the southern border be solved before Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan would receive $114 billion in much-needed aid requested by the Biden administration.
Much to many people’s surprise, a bipartisan team of Senate negotiators actually reached an agreement after Democrats reluctantly agreed to Republican demands.
So make no mistake: Blame for the unfettered flow of migrants, which GOP officials have repeatedly called an “invasion,” and fentanyl, which has killed thousands of Americans, now lies with the Republican Party.
Twenty-five Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dropped their support for the bipartisan legislation after Johnson called the measure “dead on arrival” and the GOP House leadership would not allow for a vote in the House.
Why? There are two explanations.
House Republicans, including those from Long Island, said the legislation was not tough enough.
They supported a House Republican bill introduced in 2023 that would require the Department of Homeland Security to renew the construction of a border wall, bolster punishment for immigrants who overstayed visas in the U.S., raise the bar on who is eligible for asylum and give DHS far more authority to turn away migrants at the border.
But this was a non-starter. Democrats had already said they would not support the legislation, now or in the future. Besides, the proposal lacked the tools to end the crisis at the border.
The other explanation for the House rejecting the Senate bill is that former President Trump, the overwhelming favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, told them to.
Trump’s chances of winning election are greatly improved by chaos at the border. They decrease if Congress reduces the flow of migrants and fentanyl into the country.
Would the Senate legislation, which included more than $20 billion to enhance enforcement, have reduced the flow of migrants and fentanyl into the country?
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, an immigration expert and staunch conservative who helped lead the bipartisan negotiations, McConnell and other party leaders said yes.
They called the legislation a generational opportunity to implement the most conservative border security measures in decades.
The Wall Street Journal echoed the senators. As did The National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents Border Patrol agents.
The union, which twice endorsed Trump for president, said the proposed legislation would drop illegal border crossings nationwide.
But House Republicans wouldn’t take yes for an answer.
Long Island Congressmen Nick LaLota and Anthony D’Esposito (NY-CD4), both of whom face re-election in the fall, joined fellow Republicans in opposing the legislation.
D’Esposito blasted the bipartisan legislation as a “disastrous [Senate Majority Leader Charles] Schumer-led Senate ‘deal’” in a tweet on X, saying it “further surrenders control of our nation’s borders.”
LaLota said, “My nine-year-old did a better job negotiating last night’s bedtime than Senator Lankford did on this so-called border bill.”
They were joined by Mazi Melesa Pilip, a Nassau County legislator with two years experience in public office, who was running to replace expelled Rep. George Santos in New York’s 3rd Congressional District.
Pilip’s campaign focused on the immigration crisis, blaming her Democratic opponent, former Congressman Tom Suozzi, President Joe Biden and even New York City Mayor Eric Adams for the influx of migrants.
The statement she released echoed the words of Johnson.
“The proposed Senate border deal is an absolute nonstarter for me because it simply puts into law the invasion currently happening at our southern border,” she falsely claimed in the statement. “This deal does not accomplish that goal at all, and in fact sets a threshold of at least 1.5 million additional migrants entering our country each year. That is truly appalling.”
Pilip was soundly defeated by former Congressman Tom Suozzi on Tuesday night after the Democrat pounced on Pilip’s opposition to the Senate’s legislation and promoted his support.
Will Trump and Republican Long Island congressmen running for re-election this fall learn their lesson – or will they continue to oppose a fix to the chaos?
They may still think their opposition to the Senate deal is good politics. But what they have been saying is not true.
The proposed legislation, now opposed by Republicans, would have immediately addressed the No. 1 problem with gaining control of the border – money.
It would also would have made it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum and would remove the courts from the appeals process, putting such decisions in the hands of an internal review board.
The legislation would have raised the bar for migrants who say they have a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their home countries. It also required migrants to show that they could not have simply moved to a different part of their home countries to evade that threat.
The bill also would have ended catch-and-release and allowed migrants granted asylum to get a job within 90 days – rather than wait six months under the current law.
And it would have given money to places like New York City dealing with an influx of migrants legally seeking asylum who have been transported by Republican-controlled border states.
Perhaps most importantly, the proposed legislation would also have created a trigger that would effectively close the border to migrants trying to cross into the United States without authorization.
The trigger would be tripped if the average number of migrants encountered by border officials exceeded 5,000 over the course of a week or 8,500 on any given day. Encounters would have to fall to a daily average of 75 percent of those thresholds, again over the course of a week, for affected intake processes to start up again.
The bill also would give the president power to close the border if migrant encounters reach an average of 4,000 per day over a week.
If the proposal were passed into law, the new authority could be triggered almost immediately, given that border encounters topped 10,000 on some days during December, which was the highest month on record for illegal crossings.
Biden said he would use the authority to “shut down” the border the first day it was passed.
What the legislation lacked was a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented people who have lived in the U.S. for many years, including “Dreamer” immigrants brought in as children.
That was a longtime stumbling block for Democrats that all but five accepted to make the deal.
As an alternative to the Senate legislation, Trump has outlined a radical shift in immigration policy if he is elected again in 2024, vowing to implement unprecedented measures targeting both legal and unauthorized immigrants, including a massive deportation blitz.
He has also pledged to build miles of more border wall, impose dramatic limits on asylum. and end birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants living in the country.
And he said he would unlawfully deputize the National Guard to carry out mass deportations and deny entry to legal immigrants based on their ideological beliefs.
In one recent interview, Trump said some migrants were “poisoning the blood of our country.”
The country now faces an unmanageable influx of migrants and deadly drugs that will continue for at least another year.
This will inevitably be accompanied by an unending number of campaign ads blaming the other side for the crisis.
At this point, only one side will be right.