Republicans have cleared the first hurdle in a quest to pass key immigration and border security legislation and fulfill the leadership’s campaign promise to make solving the crisis the first order of business.
The House Judiciary Committee passed the Border Security and Enforcement Act of 2023 after a 12-hour bill-making marathon that began Wednesday morning and extended into the evening.
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Members voted 23-15 to advance the bill to the House. The more than 130-page proposal included language for a series of bills that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) promised to fast-track. A solution to the border crisis has been the source of GOP infighting for the past three months.
Members of both sides grew passionate as the hours flew by. In an address, one of the bill’s authors, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), criticized Democrats for their concerns about children being separated from their parents at the border when the Biden administration lost track of 85,000 children, according to a recent New York Times report found.
“Your current system has 85,000 kids they can’t find. What in the world? It’s the New York Times. It’s not Fox News,” Roy said.
Now: Rep. Chip Roy is furious with House Judiciary Democrats after Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon’s third attempt at an amendment to exempt unaccompanied children under the age of one from crossing the border illegally to apply for asylum:
“Your current system has 85,000 kids who… pic.twitter.com/wtWmoiFera
— Anna Giaritelli (@Anna_Giaritelli) April 20, 2023
Democrats and Republicans debated for hours over amendments that had to do with the E-Verify worker verification program, the Biden administration’s use of parole on a large scale in lieu of select individuals seeking admission and how to respond to unaccompanied minors at the border.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) introduced an amendment that would exempt unaccompanied children from a portion of the bill Roy had authorized that would give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to ban all illegal immigrants , including children.
House Freedom Caucus members Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Roy protested the idea, saying the amendment would not give children a reason to go to ports of entry to seek asylum only to end up in the hands of Mexican cartels to enter between ports.
Scanlon reintroduced the amendment to protect only children under 5, but the proposal was denied. Frustrated, Scanlon tried a third time and introduced the amendment to exempt babies under one year old from being able to claim asylum, but the motion failed.
GOP progress on the border fix was stymied by the dramatic battle over the speaker’s gavel in January. The various rounds of horse-trading resulted in McCarthy promising to fast-track some dissenters’ border bills.
The series of bills before the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday was thought to be the avenue the GOP would use to push its agenda. One such bill authored by Roy required DHS to “suspend the entry of any non-United States person (alien under federal law) without valid entry documents for any period during which DHS cannot detain that person or return them to a foreign country contiguous to the United States.”
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While most Texas Republicans supported Roy’s push, more centrist Republicans, including border Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX), said it was “unchristian” for the way he banned the sun legitimate asylum seekers and promised to block their passage.
During the past two months of wrangling, the House Homeland Security Committee has been quietly crafting its proposal to overhaul border policies. Next week, this committee will introduce a separate comprehensive bill that addresses a host of border issues, going beyond the package presented by members of the Judiciary Committee.