Speaker Johnson sent the House immigration bill to Senate more than a year ago
The latest political narrative being proffered by Democrats and the complaint news media is that there is a good bill to secure the border coming out of the Senate that is being opposed by the Republican controlled House because President Trump does not want the border crisis solved before the election. To inflate life into this narrative, they say that the Senate proposal is the most conservative and strongest immigration agreement ever –and that is the best possible action that can be taken at this time. There is no alternative. They say it will secure the border … period. They accuse House Speaker Mike Johnson essentially of legislative malfeasance for saying that the Senate proposal is “dead on arrival in the House.
Weeell … there are political narratives based on spin and there are the facts – and they are rarely in agreement. So, let us take a look at the facts surrounding the legislative efforts to secure the border – and see how the narrative stacks up with the facts.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the House passed a strong immigration bill and sent it over to the Senate. The Senate has been talking about an agreement, but as of this writing has not produced an actual bill.
To bill or not to bill
Despite all the references to a Senate “bill” as an accomplished piece of legislation, we have to understand that nothing has passed in the Senate that can be sent to the House for consideration – or sent to the President for his signature. There is a Bill under consideration that is subject to review, amendments, and further negotiations. So, when they talk about a “bill” as a specific done deal, there is no such thing.
What seems to be less understood and less reported is that the House has actually passed an immigration bill – HR2 – more than a year ago. So, what happened to that piece of legislation. Was it considered by the Senate? Debated? Did the Senate make changes and send it back to the House for consideration – as is the case with most bills that become laws.? Was there a committee hearing? A vote? Nope!!
At the time, Senate Republicans believed HR2 would be a good starting point for meaningful negotiations. Even though he conceded that the House Bill would not get the necessary 60 votes to overcome a possible Democrats filibuster, North Carolina GOP Senator Thom Tillis called it “a good starting point.”
However … Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared the House bill dead on arrival and blocked all consideration. As they say, “He buried it.” Rather than advance the negotiations regarding a growing national crisis, Scheme simply tossed the bill passed by the House into the Senate’s legislative dumpster.
Now that Johnson says the Senate draft is not acceptable to the House, Democrats typically whine that Republican are obstructionists. Really?
President Trump has called for the Senate proposal to be rejected. But why? That is where we get into the political narrative versus the facts. Democrats say it is because the Republicans – and Trump – want the crisis at the border to continue because they see it as a campaign winner against Biden’s immigration policies that have so far created the greatest border and immigration crisis in American history.
It is equally arguable that Trump’s and House Speaker Johnson’s opposition to the Senate proposal is based on what is said to be in it – not campaign considerations. In fact, the very foundation of the democrat narrative is specious since passage of a GOOD immigration bill supported by the GOP would give Team Trump a win. Biden would still be the guy who created the crisis in the first place.
Biden had proposed legislation that would increase funding for border patrol agents and immigration judges. Republicans rejected the idea because it further encourages illegal border crossing. Democrats also proposed aiding the nations from which migrants were fleeing – believing that such action by the United States will encourage people to stay home. This was also rejected as prohibitively expensive and doomed to failure.
There is a good case to be made that opposition to the Senate proposal is based on legitimate problems with the provisions in the bill. So, what is on the table for the Senate?
House Bill (passed) v. Senate Bill (proposed)
It is fair to look at what the Senate is proposing – and has some bipartisan support – and compare it to HR2 that has actually passed in the House and sits in the Senate. It is important to keep in mind that both the House Bill AND the Senate proposaals are in the hands of the Senate to deal with. The House has already done its job.
So, what are the areas of agreement? What is in HR2 and how does it compare to the reported Senate proposals? Where are the possibilities of compromise?
Let us take a look.
House Bill 2 was passed just as Biden allowed Title 42 to lapse. The House reinstated that Trump-era provision since it dramatically reduced those allowed into the country. Other provisions include:
- Prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from processing aliens arriving between ports of entry. It does not close the border – on shuts down illegal crossings.
- Further restricts the requirements for asylum eligibility, and expands the scope of crimes that make a person ineligible.
- Prohibits DHS from providing money to NGOs to aide illegal crossings or provide housing and legal services to inadmissible aliens entering the United States.
- Ends catch-and-release.
- Reinstates the wait in Mexico policy.
- Requires the reporting of the number and nationalities of border crossers every month.
- Funding for additional construction of 900 miles of border wall.
- Acquisition of new technologies is estimated to cost $100 million.
- Retention bonuses for frontline border agents.
- Increase the number of border patrol agents, with emphasis on enforcement – 22,000 minimum by September 2025.
- Requires Border Control to access the criminal databases of nations from which migrants originate.
- Specifies what identification document are acceptable and not acceptable for boarding an aircraft.
- Requires Air and Marine operations of minimally 10,000 flight hours per par year and 24-hour drone surveillance along the border.
- Defoliating critical points along the banks of the Rio Grande.
- Grants to local law enforcement agencies with either an international land or water border.
- Expediting vetting and deporting.
- Asylum seekers would have to cross the border legally to be eligible to claim asylum and remain in the United States.
- Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to prepare reports on the costs incurred by communities impacted by migrant populations – and the feasibility of reimbursement.
- Requires the DHS Inspector General to prepare an annual report on the economic impact on border communities.
- Imposing higher standards to establish credible fears of persecution in their home nation as the basis for asylum. Currently more than 80 percent of those admitted to the United States do not meet the qualification for asylum.
- There would be a $50 fee to apply for asylum. That would produce $400 million dollars from the 8 million migrants who entered America since Biden took office.
- It cuts back on Biden’s “parole” program that allows those coming from specific nations – such as Venezuela, Haiti and Nicaragua — to enter and live in the United States for two years – and receive work permits – regardless of the eligibility for asylum. This essentially circumvents the normal asylum process.
- Detention and punishment for individuals who bring underage individuals across the border illegally.
- It requires broader use of the E-Verify system to prevent illegal border crossers from taking jobs.
Whew! This is only a portion of the detailed and highly technical provisions in HR2. Supporters of the Senate proposal say their Bill is the strongest immigration bill in American history. That is simply not true. House Bill 2 arguably is.
The Senate. The situation in the Senate is fluid since various provisions and various bills are being debated. Since the Senae Bill is still under consideration and debate, it is not possible to give a definitive list of provisions. However, there are some basics that have been covered by the news media. The proposals with the broadest support – bipartisan, but not yet enough for passage – has a number of key features. In promoting the Senate Bill, Republican Senator James Langford of Oklahoma outline the benefits.
- Increase the number of border patrol agents, with emphasis on processing.
- Increase the number of immigration judges.
- Increase the number of asylum officers to facilitate applications.
- Increase detention facilities to facilitate detention and deportation.
- End catch-and-release
- Speeds up the asylum process.
The poison pill
Unfortunately, Langford left out the most important provision – and one that many consider to be a poison pill. It calls for shutting border, but only after 8,500 illegal border crossers have entered the United States in a single day – or after more than 5,000 illegal border crossers have entered the United States 5 days in a row. By manipulating the daily counts and the get-aways, that could easily allow more than 2 million illegal border crossers being allowed into the country each year. That never has been—nor should it be – an acceptable level.
The problem with the Senate Bill is that it legitimizes a large number of illegal crossings by quota – virtually ending any future effort to reduce the number further. It is an insanely high number.
Jeb Johnson, former Director of Homeland Security under President Obama, once said that 1,000 border crossers a day is “a crisis.” The Senate wants to fix that number at 5,000 per day or more. Thanks to Biden rolling back virtually all of President Trump’s border control policies, the number of illegal border crossers has dramatically surged over three years since Biden took office — averaging 2.6 per year. Ironically, the Senate Bill would fix illegal crossings near that number.
In December, 2023, the daily average reached 10,000 per day. According to the Senate, that would have triggered the shutting of the border. But what does that mean? They would actually stop any additional migrants from crossing and being processed? If that is so easily done, why have they not closed the border in the past?
By comparison, the House Bill is the better measure if you really want to control the border. The Senate proposals would only freeze and legitimize illegal border crossing at an unacceptably high rate. It would also diminish all interest in future reforms to bring the border under control.
Whether you believe House Republicans are rejecting the Senate proposals to help Trump win the election or not, it does not change the fact that what the Senate is offering is bad and should be rejected on the merits – or lack thereof.
There is still a chance that the Senate can produce a bill that would pass in the House,l or take up and negotiate a compromise on HR2. But if there is any chance at immigration reform at this time, we had better get it right. All things considered, no legislation is better than bad legislation.
So, there ‘tis.
Author Note: At the time of this writing the Senate Bill has not been presented. When it is, there will be a follow-up regarding the actual details.