Dear Oklahoma friends and neighbors:

It is time to close the wide open southern border now. 

From the first week they came into office, the Biden Administration invited the world to cross our border, and the world came—not just from Mexico, Guatemala, or El Salvador, but from China, Russia, Mauritania, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and more. There is no question that President Biden has failed to use all the authorities at his disposal to secure our porous border. But it is also true that our border security laws are weak and out of date. 

No matter who is in the White House, we need laws in place that will require enforcement and deportation. We cannot allow the border to stay open now or for any president in the future. 

In the last three years, there have been more illegal border crossings at our southern border than the previous 12 years combined. Last September was the highest number of illegal crossings of any September. October was the highest number of illegal crossings of any October. November was the highest number of illegal crossings of any November. And December was not only the highest number of illegal crossings of any December, it had the highest single day of illegal crossings (over 12,000).

Only seven days in the past four months have had fewer than 5,000 people crossing illegally. 

For years, we’ve sounded the alarm about criminal aliens on the terrorist watch list crossing the border. But in the past year, the number of “Special Interest Aliens,” listed specifically as a national security risk, has grown into the tens of thousands. DHS has no idea the location of almost all of the Special Interest Aliens that were released into our country. This has to stop now. 

In October, Senate Republicans locked arms and blocked any vote on the national security supplemental bill for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan until we had agreement on real border security changes to address our own border crisis. Most of the people who cross our border make a weak or false request for asylum. Because our asylum laws are so out of date and our system is so overwhelmed, almost everyone who crosses our border is put into the asylum hearing backlog of 3 million people. That means, they are released into our country to await their hearing for years (in some places for more than a decade). 

If someone crosses the border today in the desert or across the Rio Grande River, they simply walk up to a Border Patrol agent, say the magic words, “I have fear in my country” and within hours, they’re released into the country to await an asylum hearing years in the future. When there is a huge crowd or a caravan of people, there’s no screening for asylum at all. They are just released into the country a few hours after crossing. Years from now, they get their first screening, and then years after that, a hearing is scheduled—of course, few, if any, will ever show up for their hearing years from now. 

That is what our wide-open border looks like right now: cross today, get released with a work permit tomorrow, and get a hearing years from now, if ever—no consequences for not showing up at the hearing and no accountability. Once they are released at our border, no one knows where they are, who they are or what they are doing. We cannot ignore the growing national security crisis and do nothing. 

House Republicans held hearings and narrowly passed a great border security bill—HR 2—a year ago, because House members also saw the need to update our border laws. However, the Democrat-controlled Senate would not even hold a hearing on the House bill. When Senate Republicans forced a vote on HR2, it failed in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Not a single Democrat voted for the House border security bill in the House or the Senate. 

In a divided Congress, if you are going to make law, you have to have the vote of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. You cannot just have partisan press conferences and say something got done. You have to actually sit down and argue out solutions to hard problems across the aisle. 

To force Biden to close our wide-open border, we need at least 60 votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate, 218 votes in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, and the signature of the President that opened up our border in the first place. That is not an easy feat for a subject that has not had a change in law for over 30 years. Even when we had all Republican control of Congress and the White House a few years ago, we could not get border law changes passed. 

For the last four months, I have worked to change the national security crisis at our southern border with policy that will close the loopholes in current law that are exploited by the cartels. The bill confronts the biggest issues at our open southern border: the need for a higher standard for asylum claims, stopping the abuse of humanitarian parole, ending catch and release, and taking on the cartels who traffic fentanyl and people across our open southern border. 

Several of the changes in law were issues that President Trump also asked for when he was in the White House. 

The text released today is written to stop the massive numbers now, and provide new tools and authorities that will be in place for every future president on day one. 

Most Oklahomans tell me that they are not opposed to legal immigration, but they are sick and tired of millions of illegal crossings every year. 

If you want to read more about the bill, CLICK HERE to review the details.
If you want to read the bill itself, CLICK HERE.

The bill works to stop the illegal immigration chaos now and in the future. Here are some of the details:

  • NO amnesty—period
  • NO free work permits handed out at the border
  • NO more 10-year wait for an asylum hearing
  • More ICE agents for deportations
  • More Border Patrol agents for arrests
  • More asylum officers for faster hearings and deportation
  • Builds the wall
  • More than $650 million is recapitalized for border wall construction next year
  • Adds more technology at the border to interdict drugs and illegal crossings
  • Increases detention beds to 50,000 to end catch and release
  • Doubles the number of deportation flights
  • Ends the cartel trick of trafficking children with adults so the adults can enter the country faster
  • Raises the standard to prove an asylum request, so people coming to our border can no longer just say, “I have fear in my country” and get released into America for years
  • Deports anyone seeking asylum with a criminal record immediately, instead of the current policy of deporting them years from now
  • Deports any alien who could have resettled in another country on the way to the United States
  • Deports any alien who came to America to seek “protection,” but they could have just moved to another town in their own country and been safe
  • Adds more asylum officers for screening to make sure the handful of people who actually qualify for asylum are able to be considered for that process fast and the majority of people who do not qualify for asylum are deported faster
  • Creates a new Title 42-like authority to shut down and deport everyone when the border is being overrun--Currently when there is a caravan of people, everyone is released into the country because there is not enough time to process everyone fully. This new authority would reverse that by deporting everyone when the border is overrun with too many people to process.
  • Creates sanctions for the criminal cartels who traffic dangerous drugs like fentanyl and meth into our country
  • Finally finishes vetting the Afghan refugees that have been in our country for two years and accelerates the processing of the Afghans that fought alongside our troops who are already in the country
  • Moves our national strategy one giant step closer to zero illegal crossings a day

Many people have said to me, “All of that sounds good. Those new authorities will be very powerful in the hands of a president who is serious about securing the border. But, what can be done RIGHT NOW to stop the chaos since Biden will not close the border unless we make him?” Glad you asked. 

The bill includes a new mandate called the Border Emergency Authority. It is an emergency “break glass” authority similar to but even stronger than Title 42. When the criminal cartels guide the massive caravans of people to our border and the system is overwhelmed, like it has been day after day for the past three years. This mandate requires the border to shut down immediately and everyone trying to get in to be immediately deported. Instead of everyone getting released when the crowds rush the border, like what happened yesterday, everyone will get deported. 

The Border Emergency Authority has been the most misunderstood or maybe just misrepresented parts of the bill. Some people have said it would mean 5,000 people a day are coming into the country every day. That is absurd and untrue. The emergency authority is not designed to let 5,000 people in, it is designed to turn 5,000 people around. 

The Border Emergency Authority only lasts three years to force this administration to actually shut down the border and to give time for the next administration to hire more agents and more officers. After three years, the emergency authority expires because we should have regained full control of our border by then.

If this bill were in place in last September, the border would have been shut down for months, and almost a million people would have been deported, instead of released into the country—no asylum screening, no hearings, just turning people back to Mexico or their home country. The border stays closed for days or weeks. This authority will put the power back in the hands of law enforcement, instead of in the hands of the criminal cartels. 

Our increased screening and detention are designed to cause a dramatic decline in the number of people trying to cross our border because they no longer get released—they get deported—and the cartels are not going to hand out refunds to those who are deported. No one will pay thousands of dollars to a cartel just to be deported back to their home country. 

We also end the passing out of free work permits at the border each day. The work permits for just applying for asylum or given as a “reward” for coming through a port of entry on parole are a magnet to thousands of people illegally crossing. Ceasing to hand out work permits each day will also cause a dramatic drop in the number of people crossing our border. 

There are unfortunately other false rumors floating around the internet and social media about this border security bill. I encourage you to do your own research and reach out to ask our team any questions about the border protections. 

Every bill in the Senate will have sections that you like and probably sections that you do not like. It is the nature of making law in America when you have to get the agreement of at least 60 very hard headed people. But doing nothing when our border is open and we know people with terror affiliations are crossing our border is not an option. 

As my mom told me, “it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.” Let’s get this done so we can finally solve this national security crisis.

In God We Trust,
James Lankford
United States Senator for Oklahoma

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