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Lankford Calls Out Partisan Ploy to Advance “Bipartisan” Border Bill Without Bipartisan Backing

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) spoke on the Senate floor to challenge Senate Democrats’ attempt to use the bipartisan border security package now as a partisan political exercise. 

Lankford serves as lead Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, and he pushed back on President Biden for his sudden attempt to change the narrative on the border just six months before an election. Earlier this week, Lankford joined Newsmax’s Wake Up America to call out the Biden Administration’s failure at the southern border and President Biden’s refusal to use executive authority to address the national security crisis he created.

Transcript

Mr. President, thank you. Can I just recap for this body, starting last October, a group of us sat down to have a serious conversation about the border. Democrat Senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy. We had an Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona. We all understood the problem is serious and it’s a very real threat to our economy. It is spiraling out of control on the border. October is the highest month ever in the history of our country. November was the highest number in the history of our country. December was the highest number ever in the history of our country with the largest day of illegal crossings in the history of our country in December of 12,000 people in a single day. Things were spiraling out of control at the border and they continue.

So we sat down in a serious conversation and said we had differences of how to be able to resolve this but we all want to be able to fix this. So we spent months trying to be able to hammer out a resolution. This is serious dialogue that we hope to be able to get to conclusion. But we failed to do that. We created a bill that I felt like was a great bill with common ground in it. It didn’t have everything that I wanted in it, but it did have the essentials in it to be able to change the way we do asylum, to be able to change the processing.

It literally took it from the very first person that crossed the border each day would be detained, quickly screened, and then deported, the very first person. If we had a flood or a caravan of up to 5,000 people crossing a day, we can’t control that so in that situation, instead of detaining, quickly screening and deporting, we would just detain and deport. Because there was no time to do the screening. We weren’t going to release people in. We were going to turn people around. It changed the structure dramatically from what was happening on the border.

I felt like this was a good bill to be able to move forward. And I moved in good faith to be able to get that done. But it’s also well known here that I had disagreements. Some within my own party, the majority within my own party, that said this is not the time to be able to resolve this. It is what it is. It’s the political nature of what’s going on right now. I understand that. But the problem is still unresolved. Yesterday we had 5,500 people that illegally crossed the border yesterday, yesterday. Last month we had 174,000 people that illegally crossed our border last month. That would have been the highest month ever, in fact it a would have been the highest month in the past 20 years if it wasn’t for the last three years under the Biden Administration. It would have been higher than any month under President Obama, under President Bush, under President Trump. It would have been higher than any of those months but it doesn’t even beat the records that were even set in the previous months before under the Biden Administration because of their dramatic change in policy.

One-and-a-half million people now illegally cross the border this fiscal year, one-and-a-half million people. And they continue to be able to come across our border with almost no restraint. I’ve said for a long time this is a serious issue that we need to address. My own party has said this was not the time to be able to do that. Now I’m hearing rumors that next week, the folks I was sitting down with to be able to have serious dialogue to fix it, may bring bills back up again and to say let’s do a political thing on the other side of the aisle.

Listen, if we’re going to solve the border issues, it’s not going to by doing competing messaging bills. If we’re going to solve this, let’s sit down like adults and let’s figure out how we’re going to actually resolve this together. If there’s a messaging bill come back, even the bill I help negotiate next week, just to bring it up again and try to poke Republicans in the eye for some sort of messaging piece, why are we doing this?

All the American people see it, everybody sees this is political, but everyone in the country also sees why don’t you guys and ladies fix this instead. Why don’t you actually resolve it?

There’s a couple of quotes that have come out lately. My Democratic colleagues have put out a memo, and this was the memo, saying Tom Suozzi flipped the script on his Republican opponent successfully painting her as unserious about border security because of her opposition to the bipartisan border bill, in turn what could have been a devastating political liability into an advantage. Democrats should learn the lesson from New York 3rd District. Quite simply, we risk losing the 2024 election if we do not seize this opportunity to go on offense on the issue on the border and turn the table on Republicans, their key of failing the vote. Senator Schumer made this statement, “It’s a win if the Republicans abandon us at the last minute because if Democrats put together a tough bipartisan bill on the border, it would not take border away as an issue for the Republicans, but it would at least give us a 50-50 chance to combat it.”

Listen, I understand the politics of the moment. I do. We’re in a presidential election year. Everybody in America is watching what’s happening on the border and saying something needs to be fixed. And it is easy for Republicans to look at the White House and to say there are 94 executive orders that the White House has proactively done that changed how the border was enforced under President Trump and under President Obama. A high number under President Obama was 2,000 people in a day. Yesterday we had 5,500 people. If President Biden would enforce the border the same way President Obama did, much less the same way President Trump did, the border would be very different. Everybody sees that. Everybody also sees we need a change in the way we do asylum policy. That’s a change that has to be done in Congress. That’s a vote that we have to be able to take.

So instead of us pointing at each other and doing political stunts, let’s solve this. Let’s actually sit down and figure out how we’re going to resolve it. We can’t do everything. The bill that I worked with Senator Murphy and Senator Sinema on, we’re not growing to be able to pass. So let’s find the sections of it that we can pass. The worst-case scenario is doing nothing. That’s what we’re currently doing.

Now, the House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday saying that if someone who is not legally present here in the country attacks a law enforcement officer, whether that is state, local, county, federal, tribal, whoever it may be, if they attack a law enforcement officer, they’re going to be deported. Well, the bipartisan passed over in the House yesterday. Is that coming over here to the Senate? Probably not. It probably won’t be taken up. But in a bipartisan way, it passed the House yesterday. We’ve had two different votes of a House bill called HR 2 that was a very comprehensive bill dealing with all areas of border security. It passed the House. It came to the Senate. It’s had two votes and it’s failed both times. So, Republicans can now say Democrats didn’t take our bill and Democrats will say well, Republicans wouldn’t take the bipartisan bill. And we point at each other and we’re still in the same spot.

The American people expect us to actually solve this, not just do politics on it.

So, here’s my counsel. Stop doing all the political games. Let’s stop bringing up the messaging bills. This is a national emergency. Of the 5,500 people that crossed the border yesterday illegally, I haven’t seen the number yet, but I will tell you in all likelihood if it’s tracking similar to other days, several dozen of those folks were designated by the Department of Homeland Security, as Special Interest Aliens. That is, they are coming from areas of known terrorism that were designated at the border as a potential national security risk, and then they were released into the country awaiting a hearing. And by this afternoon we’ll have no idea where they are. That happens every day now, because there’s a large percentage of the people that are crossing the border every day now that are not from the western hemisphere. They’re from west Africa, they’re from all the “stan” countries. They’re from Pakistan, they’re from India, they’re from China, they’re from Russia. They’re from areas where we know there’s active terrorist cells but we just don’t know this person. They’re not on our list. But we do know what clan they’re from and there are people in that clan in that tribe, in that particular location that have been an issue. But because we don’t have any derogatory information, they’re being released every day.

This has been the bell I have been ringing for months now. The immigration issue is not the same as what it was two years ago. There’s been a huge shift in who is crossing the border, and we are not taking this seriously. This is a national security risk, and we need to be attentive to who is crossing our border every single day and take that seriously. This body knows full well I am not anti-immigration. We are a nation that has welcomed people from all over the world, and we should continue to do that. We have a million people a year that legally become citizens of our country but in the last six months we’ve had 1.5 million people illegally cross into our country. That million that came in that became citizens of our country, they were vetted, they went through the process. They’re being welcomed and integrated. That 1.5 million other folks that crossed illegally, we have no idea. Some are coming to join family, some are coming to be able to find a job, but some are no doubt also coming for nefarious purposes, and we can’t tell the difference.

So, my counsel to us is let’s take this as serious as it actually is. Press conferences take one person. Passing law takes 60. That means we have to sit down together to be able to talk this through. We have to be able to figure out how we’re going to actually get something done and at least make some progress.

What is DHS currently doing? Well, DHS has just announced they’re doing a rebranding of Homeland Security Investigations, of HSI. They are HSI-ICE. They’re going to rebrand them and take away the ICE designation. We’re going to have a new logo and… a new listing of what they’re going to actually do. At the same time, they’re saying we don’t have enough money to be able to get more Border Patrol, to be able to detain more people, to be able to deport more people. We’re spending millions of dollars. We haven’t seen the amount yet, but we’re spending millions of dollars on rebranding HSI.

We should take this moment as serious as it actually is. In the past three years the price of groceries has gone up 20 percent. The price of gasoline has gone up 55 percent, but the price of fentanyl has gone down on the streets. We should take this moment as serious as it is. We have more drugs coming across our border based on the porous nature of what’s going on, where migrants will come in, Border Patrol will engage with them for humanitarian purposes, and then the cartels will smuggle drugs two miles upriver or through the desert when they know that no one’s watching that area. So, we have a dramatic increase in fentanyl coming into our country directly connected to 5,500 people that illegally crossed yesterday, 174,000 people last month, and 1.5 million in the last six months. What are we going to do about that? I hope not just to talk about it. I hope not just to do political messaging. I hope not just saying we’ll bring up this bill to fail, that we all know is going to fail. I hope it’s actually sit down together and say let’s do the work to actually resolve this issue. That is what people sent us to do. I fully understand it’s hard. I’ve personally experienced it. But we were sent here to do hard things, so we should probably start doing them. 

Let’s get this solved.

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