WASHINGTON – Republicans on Wednesday again hammered the Biden administration over its border policies by asserting that are failing to enforce even basic immigration laws.
The report reinforces claims that the GOP has been making for weeks about the Biden administration not doing enough to secure the Southern border.
“Our message to President Biden is this: Enforce the law and restore policies that deter illegal immigration,” said Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, who presided over the hearing.
However, the Trump administration was well behind the Obama administration in terms of deportations, expelling only about one-third as many unauthorized immigrants over four years by comparison, according to the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration policy think tank
Many human rights groups criticized immigration policies under the Trump administration, saying they were cruel because of policies like those that separated families at the border.
During the hearing, Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) displayed an image of children apprehended at the border being held in cages. “Americans want bipartisan immigration reform, they do not want children in cages,” she said.
“We can have a humane and orderly immigration system,” said David J. Bier, associate director of Immigration studies at the Cato Institute, one of the experts who was called by Democrats to testify. “But, we need to start with the premise that people are not the problem.”
Multiple lawmakers pointed to the impeachment hearings of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas as grounds for this hearing being just another political tactic to draw support away from President Joe Biden and toward former President Donald Trump.
Democrat committee members repeatedly stressed that the U.S. is a nation of immigrants. They emphasized that the immigration system is so complex that many felt they had no other option than to cross the border illegally.
Congressman Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) was just one of the committee members to call out the potentially dangerous rhetoric coming from Republicans as a way to stoke fear and “blame immigrants for the issues that Americans are facing.” He accused them of following the lead of Trump.
“I am sick and tired of people in Congress talking about xenophobic and racist policies under the Trump administration,” said Thomas Homan, former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “We enforced the law.”
Many GOP members used the hearing to rehash some of the party’s common talking points about drug seizures and the migrant surge. They used the hearing to tout H.R. 2, a proposed bill that would tighten immigration laws, including imposing restrictions on asylum eligibility and provisions to ensure the unobstructed construction of border barriers.
“It’s disgusting, and it has to stop, and H.R. 2 would put a stop to it,” said Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), on the issue of human trafficking and rape that many migrants have to endure on their journey to the Southern border.
However, many Democrats oppose H.R. 2, and some consider it a continuation of the policies under the Trump administration.
“This is who you are, removing the fabric of America,” Frost said. He brought a visual of the image of the Statue of Liberty and tore it down, saying that the bill effectively guts what the United States represents.
“As long as Republican officials are more interested in peddling hate, the solutions to fixing this problem in our immigration system will only get worse,” he said.
Republicans have been holding up additional money for Ukraine and Israel, saying that such funding needs to be tied to a border agreement, but talks on both matters remain stalled.
Some Republicans have also said they would vote against the latest stopgap funding deal worked out between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) over the weekend to avert a government shutdown because no deal has been reached on immigration.