LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The four Arkansas congressional members voted to approve a bill addressing United States border security Thursday.
The 213-page Secure the Border Act of 2023 calls for resuming construction of the border wall and increased enforcement against illegal border crossing. Other measures in the bill include tightening controls on visas and children-family separation standards.
The bill was passed on the same day the pandemic-emergency-related Title 42 border rule was set to expire. That rule allowed the rapid expulsion of immigrants. In its place, U.S. immigration policy returns to the previously-used Title 8 rule which will enable immigrants at the border to apply for asylum.
Critics say reverting back to this previous rule will strain border security.
“Joe Biden sent a message that America’s border is open, and millions of people answered that call and started coming across our border illegally,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, (R-Louisiana) said earlier this week. “We’re going to show the president how to solve the problem.”
The bill passed 219-213 with no Democrat votes and one Repubican voting against it. All four Arkansas Republicans voted for the measure and afterward released statements supporting the measure.
Rep. French Hill called out what he referred to as “reckless inaction” by President Joe Biden on border security.
“Since President Biden took office over two years ago, the situation at our southwest border has deteriorated,” Hill said. “The reckless inaction by the Biden Administration has created the current humanitarian and security crisis at our southwest border, which has caused immense strain on U.S. Border Patrol Agents, empowered the flow of illicit drugs throughout our country, and compromised our national security.”
Rep. Rick Crawford also pointed at Biden as the root cause of the border issue.
“When President Biden took office, he put out a welcome mat for illegal migrants, inviting them into our country as word spread that his Administration would fly them to any destination in the country, at taxpayers’ expense,” Crawford said. “Millions responded, flooding our nation with undocumented immigrants, overcrowding our schools and hospitals and allowing drug cartels to traffic fentanyl and other deadly drugs throughout our nation. Now, with Title 42 ending, Biden is replacing his welcome mat with a red carpet, moving this from a crisis to a catastrophe.”
Rep. Bruce Westerman tweeted his concern about the U.S.-Mexico border and drug smuggling.
“In FY 23 alone, border patrol seized over 14,000 pounds of fentanyl coming across our Southwest border. That’s enough to kill the entire U.S. population 10 times,” Westerman said.
Rep. Steve Womack spoke about the bill’s impact on border security.
“Specifically, H.R. 2 would force the Biden Administration to restart construction of the border wall, deploy technology to the southern and northern border, increase the number of Border Patrol agents and provide bonus pay, require transparency regarding illegal crossings from the Department of Homeland Security, strengthen current law to protect unaccompanied children from human trafficking, end catch and release, end abuse of executive immigration authority, and strengthen and streamline the asylum process,” he said.
Title 42 expires at midnight Thursday, and a surge of immigrants is expected once it is no longer in effect. President Joe Biden has ordered additional Army troops to the southern border in anticipation of this surge.