In December 2023, President Biden set a grim record. For the first time in our country’s history, monthly attempted border crossings exceeded 300,000 – a number greater than the population of a mid-sized American city. December’s milestone caps a year of similar statistics for the Biden administration. There were more encounters in the previous two months than in any October and November on the books. Overall, 2023 saw more crossings than 2022, which was itself worse than 2021.
Agents Deal with President’s Mess
Undermanned border agents are being forced to struggle with this overwhelming surge of illegals. The Biden administration made a weak attempt to address the problem by closing four points of entry in Texas, Arizona, and California. This actually made matters worse by limiting the flow of trade, harming the economy. And they failed to undo the decisions the president made that put the country in this chaotic position.
The Biden administration has also been forced to step up enforcement of sea crossings. Since the president took office, the number of people attempting to enter the United States by boat has increased over 400 percent. Coast Guard officials have dispatched thousands of service members and dozens of ships to the region. Crews regularly rescue illegal immigrants from unsafe vessels and interdict large cargoes of drugs. They are admirably tackling the challenge, but they are not equipped to handle this volume of traffic.
Our Enemies See a Vulnerability
Americans look at the border and see a crisis, but our enemies look and see an opportunity. China works with criminal gangs to sneak fentanyl across our porous southern border. In 2023, officials found that 160 individuals unlawfully entering the country were on the terror watchlist, an increase from 100 the year before. A senior military official reported that Russia has placed more agents in Mexico than anywhere else in the world. Clearly, Putin understands this situation is an opportunity for him to wield his authoritarian influence near the United States.
Republicans Increase Border Security
I serve as the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the group responsible for writing Congress’ annual national defense legislation. Last year, I successfully included a number of provisions in that bill to bring military resources to this dire situation.
One measure is called the FINISH IT Act. This law requires the Biden administration to use wall panels purchased under President Trump to help secure the border. Last year, I led an investigation that found officials were spending thousands of dollars every day just to store these panels. My legislation stops wasteful spending and improves security.
I also supported a number of provisions that would take the fight to criminal gangs. These organizations bribe Mexican law enforcement, terrorize the innocent, and pour drugs into our neighborhoods. They have military-grade tools, and they use them. They also weaponize cyberspace. One new part of the national defense law would bring the might of American cyber capabilities to weaken gang operations. Another section would strengthen coordination between American defense, intelligence, and homeland security officials as they work together to combat the cartels.
None of President Biden’s policies should be a surprise. Since taking office, he has implemented the agenda he previewed as a candidate. He ended border wall construction and the Remain in Mexico policy. His administration expanded “catch and release” and accelerated the humanitarian disaster. What the president should do is return to the sensible policies that were working under President Trump. Every day he delays doing so, he proves that this crisis is a choice, not an inevitability.