Democrats push Biden to do more about border crisis

A group of 18 House Democrats sent a letter to the president asking him to take executive action to secure the border.
A group of people, including many from China, walk along the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Posted at 11:31 AM, May 10, 2024

For years, Congress has known the country's immigration system needs serious work. However, efforts to pass reform bills have stalled, leaving the country's broken system in place.

Now, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling on President Joe Biden to do more on his own. Eighteen House Democrats sent a letter to the president Tuesday, asking him to take executive action to secure the border.

Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada said he wants the White House to "make sure that we are putting more technology, more equipment on the border. I've been to the border, I've met with border agents, and that is specifically what they've called for."

Political signs are shown.

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Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas had a similar message for the president.

"I want them to make use of the resources that we've been sending in the most efficient and effective way possible," she told Scripps News. "You know, making sure that we've got that we don't have vacancies when it comes to immigration judges or asylum officers."

Border encounters have been decreasing in recent months, but immigration remains a top concern for voters. Beyond the migrant issues, House Democrats are also concerned about illegal drugs like fentanyl coming across the southern border.

"This [fiscal] year, there was more than 10,000 pounds of fentanyl that was seized and 95% of that at the southern border," Horsford said. "So it's a real issue."

A Border Patrol agent walks along a border wall separating Tijuana, Mexico, from San Diego.

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In a similar vein, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia also sent a letter to President Biden, asking him to declare an emergency at the border. He said he wants the White House to "surge resources to expand the expedited removal, detention, and deportation."

Declaring an emergency would unlock small pots of funding, but only on a temporary basis. Experts say one of the most effective ways to reduce the border strain is creating more legal pathways to come to the U.S., like the parole program for Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans.

"Having that alternative has reduced the number of people who are coming up and seeking asylum because they have a way to get in line," explained Dara Lind, a senior fellow with the American Immigration Council. "Now, even though demand for those programs is like way, way, way higher than the number of people they can actually accommodate."

Republicans have argued that President Biden has all the power he needs to get the border under control. But experts say effective change will require more resources, border agents, asylum officers, and new technology — all things that cost more money. And it's Congress that holds the power of the purse.