There’s a sign on the eastern border of Texas: El Paso, 857 miles. Makes you want to turn around. I’m going there in a few days for several reasons. My first stop will be New Mexico to visit the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons are researched, designed, and tested. Nebraska’s first district is home to the U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), a cornerstone of our nation’s nuclear defense.
Then I visit the border. I will see unaccompanied children, other persons who have been detained, old barriers, new barriers, places with no barriers, and the consequences for each. I will review our surveillance systems, and the conditions faced by our Border Control. I will see how migrants are processed and housed at various chokepoints, and the dangers they face in making their perilous journey.
A recent Gallup poll found that immigration is “the most important problem” for Americans, far outpacing any other concern, and near the highest for any problem since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. This is no surprise, given the crisis at our southern border.
The facts of the crisis are alarming. In the month of May alone, U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped 132,000 persons trying to cross the border illegally, the highest monthly total in over ten years. March, April, and June saw apprehensions of over 90,000 people. These numbers are unsustainable.
You have likely seen the dramatic, painful images of the brokenness of our immigration system. In response, on June 27 of this year, the House voted to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and security at our southern border. I voted yes for two reasons: It took care of the children and helped stop illegal activity by giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection necessary resources. On July 1, President Trump signed this legislation into law.
This bill, however, is only a short-term fix. The last time I was at the border I watched persons crossing illegally at night. The situation has changed dramatically. Thousands of people a day now arrive in broad daylight, turning themselves in and requesting asylum. Many of those so apprehended never show up to their subsequent status hearings. Fixing this loophole in our asylum laws is an essential component of modernizing our immigration system.
Last summer, I voted for such a bill that did several important things. It funded appropriate security barriers on the southern border. It transitioned us to a merit-based immigration system that included a fair resolution for those children––informally known as the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) kids––brought here through no fault of their own. It increased funding for humane shelters, ensuring that no children would be separated from their parents. It strengthened provisions to remove illegal immigrant felons and gang members. It provided safeguards to prevent asylum law abuse. It addressed chain migration while shielding the nuclear family. And it eliminated the visa lottery program, with new measures to combat visa overstays. I voted for it. A majority of Democrats and Republicans voted against it.
Just think if that bill had made it into law.
A vibrant, just, and humane immigration system depends upon order: a secure border, internal enforcement, new foreign policy considerations to our south, and modernization of our laws. This is about more than the televised trauma at our one-yard-line with Mexico. It’s about trauma for persons in their home countries and trauma to our governing systems in America.
The origin of the name “El Paso” means passageway to the North. What is needed is a passageway to a reasoned set of policies—respectful of persons, respectful of law, and respectful of our country.