Lankford Exposes Crisis at the Southern Border
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK), lead Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Government Operations and Border Management, today spoke on the importance of his recent congressional delegation tour of the southern border in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, to take an in-depth look at the issues facing our border law enforcement along the US-Mexico border. He continues to remind the Senate and the Biden Administration of specific ways we can secure our border and not incentivize illegal immigration.
Lankford remains the leading voice in the Senate to secure our southern border, end catch-and-release, and fixing the broken asylum process. Lankford joined his colleagues to tour the southwest border, meet with the brave men and women tasked with securing the border, and hear from local law enforcement, community leaders, and nonprofits that care for asylum seekers leaving CBP custody.
I’ve been on this floor many times, to speak to this body about the issue of immigration on our southwest border. It is an issue. It has been an issue for the past couple of years, and unfortunately it continues to get worse.
As I talk to people in Oklahoma, they’re very open to immigration. They just want legal immigration. And they want our system set up in such a way to incentivize legal immigration. But that’s not what’s happening right now.
Seven of us—two weeks ago in a bipartisan CODEL—went to the southwest border. We spent a couple days there in the El Paso area then to Yuma, Arizona, to visit with the folks on the line in the communities to talk to those individuals taking care of human needs, to say what’s going on the ground? What do we need to know?
I’ve been to the border many times, so I’ve had the opportunity to hear some of the other reports, but it’s always interesting to get the perspective of what’s happening right now because as they say along the border, if you’ve been to one spot on the border, you’ve been to one spot on the border because it’s different in each area what they’re facing.
Let me give you one story from this.
When we visited with the sheriff and city manager and mayor of a small town in Arizona named Yuma, Arizona, Yuma, Arizona, is right on the border, it’s an ag community. If you’ve eaten a salad in the last year, you’ve eaten something from Yuma, Arizona, because they grow the vast majority of the lettuce for our country.
Yuma, Arizona, three years ago, in that area, had 8,100 people illegally cross, go that year. For that one small town, they were trying to manage 8,100 people crossing three years ago. This past year, Yuma, Arizona, had 310,000 people illegally cross through the area.
So in three years, they went from 8,000 people illegally crossing to 310,000 people illegally crossing in a year. They’re overwhelmed.
May I remind you, the Mayor of New York is worried about an additional 40,000 to 50,000 people in New York City, and having a difficult time absorbing that. Yuma, Arizona, is trying to figure out how to absorb 310,000 people coming through their community.
The issues are complicated, and they’re difficult, but they’re not unachievable. It’s an issue of how are we going to enforce the law. Now, I will tell you, I met with the Border Patrol many times over the years. One of things they’ll often talk to me about, they get a break each December—because typically, because of Christmas quite frankly, not as many people cross illegally during the Christmas time—they stay home with families. And so December is usually a down month for illegal crossings, and it is year after year after year until this year.
This year, there was a record number of people illegally crossing in December. So, instead of going down, it actually went up. We had a quarter million people illegally crossed our southwest border in one month. That was last month in December—a quarter million people.
This is a growing issue that requires attention, and it’s not just the people issue, it’s also all the other complications that come with it because the Border Patrol is very clear: while we’re managing this massive number of people coming from all over the world, across that border, we can’t go interdict drugs, we can’t go interdict other things because we don’t have the manpower to be able to do both.
So again, last month, drug seizures in the United States increased 17.5 percent in one month. It went up.
This is an issue that requires real focus. And my concern is the numbers are so large, and it is so out of control, that people are just saying it’s too big, I’m not going to deal with it.
But the chaos along our border is continuing. Now, the Administration has made some bold statements of late. They said, ‘We’re going to dramatically increase the number of people that have expedited removal attached to them.’ Now, that sounds really severe, expedited removal. They’re going to have expedited removal when they get there—except when we ran the numbers to look at it, how many people are actually removed that get expedited removal? The number came back seven percent. So expedited removal doesn’t actually mean removal. It’s just a title that’s being placed on individuals. So nothing is really changing there.
And as I mentioned before, these are not just individuals from Central America or from Mexico. These are individuals coming from all over the world. When our bipartisan CODEL was sown on the border a few weeks ago, we watched two individuals that had just been picked up by mounted patrol as they were running across the border, but they were not running faster than the mounted patrol was able to catch up with them, and they were able to arrest them. Those two individuals were Chinese nationals that were making their way across the border illegally at night, running from the Border Patrol.
People from all over the world are coming because there’s an invitation to illegally cross the border. People are coming right now because it is actually easier to get a job in America if you’re living in another country and you want to work in America, it is easier to get a job in America if you illegally cross. That’s not just me saying that. That’s the data saying that. If you’re outside the United States and you apply for a work visa and want to be able to come in, in a legal, normal process, to be able to go through, currently it is 6.5 months to be able to get that work visa—7.5 months. But if you illegally cross our border, and you’re labeled with parole, which is the mass number of people are labeled with parole when they illegally cross our border, you get a work permit within three to four weeks. So you could legally do this and wait 6.5 months, or illegally do this and you get it in three to four weeks. Literally, this Administration is incentivizing illegal activity with how they’re setting up the work permits.
Listen, there are a lot of things this Congress needs to do to deal with illegal immigration, I’ve stated it over and over and over and again. The asylum laws need to change. We’ve got to do a real fix. This is the issue, and it’s been multiple administrations have said this is the problem. In fact, this Administration just in the last month has floated the idea of changing the regulation on how they actually handle asylum, and I have affirmed them for that. That has got to change the way it’s being implemented. It also needs to change in law in the way we handle it here.
But there’s also the legal process of actually enforcing our laws on the southern border that will make a significant difference not incentivizing individuals to be able to illegally cross our border.
There are things the Administration can do, and they’re not doing currently. There are things that this body needs to do, that we’ve not taken up.
Two hundred fifty thousand people illegally crossed our southern border last month. When are we going to act on this problem? It needs to be now.