Floor Speech

Date: May 2, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, when it comes to addressing the many challenges facing America today, the Biden administration's preferred strategy is to blame someone else.

President Biden has tried to blame the previous administration for the supply chain challenges, and he has also tried to blame the administration for his deadly and dangerous withdrawal from Afghanistan in a precipitous fashion, which our friends and allies simply were left to read about it or hear about it in the newspaper and hustle to get their own people out of Afghanistan, as we were as well.

And now we are seeing the blame game being played out again on the border. Last week, Secretary Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, claimed the administration inherited, in his words, ``a broken and dismantled system,'' a defense we have heard before.

Now, there is no question that our immigration system is in need of reform. As a matter of fact, we have been working on that the entire time I have been in the U.S. Senate. But as I have said before, we never fail to fail when it comes to fixing our broken immigration system.

But the fact of the matter is the Biden administration is playing on the same field as previous administrations. Presidential authorities haven't changed. Congress hasn't passed sweeping reforms that make it difficult to enforce our laws at the border. Yet, here we are, experiencing record levels of illegal immigration into the United States.

Just to provide some historical context for how bad President Biden's first year in office stacks up against previous administrations, consider this: During the first year of the Obama administration, an average of 44,000 migrants were apprehended each month--that is each month--along the southwestern border. During the first year of the Trump administration, that number was cut in half because the Trump administration had different policies with regard to removing people who were illegally coming across the border, or if they were claiming asylum, making them wait until their claims were ruled on by an immigration judge in Mexico rather than being welcomed into the United States and never to be heard from again.

So 44,000 a month for the Obama administration; 20,000 a month for the Trump administration. But during the first year of the Biden administration, numbers took off like a rocket.

An average of 176,000 migrants were apprehended at the southern border each month. One more time: 44,000 for President Obama; 20,000 for President Trump; 176,000 for President Biden. That is nearly nine times as many migrants as we were seeing just 4 years ago.

Again, Congress hasn't passed any major laws that have caused this dramatic increase. President Biden has the same authorities as the previous administrations. He has been in office for more than a year and has had plenty of opportunity to use the authorities Congress has given him to address this humanitarian and national security and public safety crisis.

He has even had plenty of time to work with Congress to pass bipartisan bills, like my Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, which I introduced with Senator Sinema. And we now have a number of bipartisan cosponsors, and it was filed in the House with bipartisan support as well--Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, and Tony Gonzales from the largest contiguous border district in Texas and in the country--a Republican.

So we introduced this bill. We laid it out for the administration, thinking that maybe, just maybe, if their poll numbers got bad enough, they would be looking for a lifeline, they would be looking for a way out.

But the Biden administration has shown zero interest. The President has even threatened to end the use of title 42, which is a public health law that gave the Border Patrol some tools to repel illegal immigration by single adult males.

The Border Patrol told me a long time ago, even toward the end of the Trump administration, during the middle of the pandemic, that if they lost use of title 42 as a means to control immigration--admittedly not something that it was designed for but something they were able to use it for--they would lose control of the border completely.

So far we have heard no suggestions by President Biden what he intends to do. We know title 42 won't be there forever. COVID won't be a pandemic forever. But what we would like to know--and I think what the American people deserve to know--is what they are going to do in terms of enforcing the law of the land once title 42 goes away.

Well, last week, Secretary Mayorkas released what he called the ``Department of Homeland Security Plan for Southwest Border Security and Preparedness.''

Well, this plan is largely a recycled and repackaged version of the same vague promises that we have heard all along--bolstering resources, increasing efficiency, and administering consequences for unlawful entry.

Even the portion of this proposal that includes specifics, such as increasing the use of expedited removal, are completely unrealistic. In order to use expedited removal--and that is the means by which the Border Patrol encounters someone and says: You can't come into the United States and will be removed--you have to have enough manpower to process migrants and enough space to keep them in custody until that can happen.

Without detention space, the promise of using expedited removal is a hollow one. Given the current pace of migration and the amount of beds that Customs and Border Protection has to detain people who are subject to expedited removal, given the current pace, the number of beds is a mathematical impossibility.

Secretary Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security has increased the number of beds in Customs and Border Protection facilities and can now hold approximately 18,000 people.

Again, under the Biden administration, we have seen 176,000 people a month coming across the border. Secretary Mayorkas is bragging about 18,000 detention beds. Obviously, those beds would fill up quickly and be overwhelmed.

In March, an average of 7,000 migrants crossed the border every day. The administration has predicted that if title 42 is lifted, which it has attempted to do and still intends to do so, that number could reach 12,000 to 18,000 migrants every day--12,000 to 18,000 every day. And, obviously, all of those 18,000 beds for detention facilities would fill up in a single day.

That is why I believe that this plan is not worth the paper it is written on unless the administration actually follows up to execute it; and, clearly, we are not seeing action, and, clearly, the arithmetic doesn't work for Secretary Mayorkas's plan. They are going to have to engage in the same sort of catch-and-release game which the human smugglers and the drug cartels have been playing on for the foreseeable past. And particularly now, they know that they can continue to overwhelm the resources at the border, and then the drug cartels run drugs into the country. And those will then be distributed by criminal gangs in every major city in America. So this plan is not worth the paper it is written on. It clearly won't solve the problem.

Administration officials can blame someone else as long as they want, but it is clear the American people aren't falling for it.

We saw, in the last couple of days, President Biden's own pollster said one of the reasons his poll numbers are so bad is because of the chaos and dangers associated with the border.

What we are seeing--and what the American people plainly see--is a complete and intentional policy breakdown that is the sole responsibility of the Biden administration. And these failures come with serious consequences for the American people.

When thousands of migrants are coming across the border every day, Border Patrol doesn't have the time to deter illegal immigration and dangerous gang members and other criminals from coming across the border.

Here is why. Several months ago, I visited Del Rio's Border Patrol Sector and spoke with a group of about 30 Border Patrol agents at the muster. When they were asked to raise their hand if they would be working out in the field--that is, on the border--not a single hand went up. These men and women who would normally be out on the frontlines stopping dangerous criminals and dangerous drugs from sneaking across the border are going to be tied up in paperwork with bogus asylum claims and administering these programs like this new program that Director Mayorkas is bragging about.

Because of the huge surge of migrants, we are going to continue to see the Border Patrol wrapped up in administrative duties like paperwork, watching unaccompanied children, and transporting migrants, and they will not be on the frontlines in this war that we are seeing play out, particularly the drug war playing out on our border.

When the Border Patrol is taking care of an unaccompanied child, they can't be on the frontlines. If they are knee-deep in paperwork, they can't identify and stop dangerous individuals and drugs from coming across the border, and the drug cartels know it. As a matter of fact, this is part of their game plan. Flood the border with so many people that the Border Patrol can't manage it, divert them from their law enforcement function and turn them into babysitters for unaccompanied children, and then the drug cartels will move their poison across as if they have established a four-lane highway. This is a dangerous situation that is putting our entire country at risk.

Criminal gangs that are located in every major city in the United States, including Chicago and cities in Texas, are the distribution networks for the drugs that are brought across by the drug cartels. They see the gaps created by fewer officers on the frontline, and they are taking advantage.

So we not only see foreign gang members, we also see a network of domestic gang members who are engaged in violence, gun crimes, robberies, and other crimes that have threatened the safety of people in our cities across the country. But we also see dangerous criminals coming across the border itself.

Last week, I spoke about a string of arrests that the Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley Sector accomplished. Border Patrol arrested half-a-dozen gang members in less than a week's time. Some of these individuals were members of the notorious MS-13, a brutal criminal organization whose motto translates into, roughly, ``kill, rape, control.'' These are the types of individuals who are making their way across the border when the Border Patrol is busy filling out paperwork or taking care of unaccompanied children and unable to perform their law enforcement functions.

MS-13 is one of the most dangerous gangs on the planet. They have been known to kill their victims using knives, machetes, and baseball bats. In one murder in California, the victim's heart was cut out. Five years ago, an MS-13 member had a dispute with a high school student. A group of gang members kidnapped the young man, cut off his hands, and then killed him. Stopping members of MS-13 and other international criminal gangs from reaching the United States should be a public safety imperative.

American families are already deeply concerned about violent crime in our country, with the boneheaded idea of defunding the police and the blame game when it comes to law enforcement, making it harder for police to be hired and retained by law enforcement agencies across the country. Criminals are having a heyday. Crime has spiked in virtually every major city across the country. I believe it is a combination of both the drugs that are trafficked by those criminal gangs as well as the impression that we don't respect and honor the public safety function performed by our local police departments. But to my point here, we can't allow the southern border to act as a corridor for more violent criminals to reach our communities.

While overall border encounters skyrocketed in 2021, the number of gang members apprehended by Border Patrol actually decreased. Now, you might think that maybe that is a good thing, but you would be wrong, because last year alone, Border Patrol estimates that there were as many as 300,000 what they call getaways. In other words, if the Border Patrol is tied up with paperwork or babysitting or transporting migrants and is no longer on the border, they don't know who is coming across the border, but they guesstimated it was as many as 300,000 getaways in the last fiscal year alone. So the fact that we haven't been able to count more gang members this year is hardly an encouraging picture given the status quo.

The Border Patrol has told us explicitly that gang members exploit migration surges in order to evade arrest. In other words, record levels of migration provide excellent cover for gang members and other criminals. They can either try to blend in with a larger group or they can identify and exploit the security gaps created by the Border Patrol's processing or caring for other migrants. Sadly, both practices are common these days.

When we look at all this data, there is one really important point that we need to remember. These are just the ones we know about. They don't include the getaways. They don't include the other dangerous criminals who have successfully snuck into our country or how many who were caught and then released because their gang affiliation was not yet known by law enforcement. We would much rather stop these criminals at the border than wait for them to reach our communities and endanger our families.

In addition to the great work already being done by law enforcement generally, there are initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods at the Department of Justice. This is one way that law enforcement is trying to wage war against these criminal gangs who use guns to commit acts of violence. It is a partnership between Federal, State, and local law enforcement that uses data-driven, evidence-based, and trauma-informed practices to reduce violent crime. But in order for them to be successful, we have to stem the flow of people coming across the border.

Programs like Project Safe Neighborhoods are exemplars of what law enforcement can do if we just give them a chance, if we just give them a level playing field to compete on rather than being overwhelmed by a tsunami of gang members, criminals, and illegal drugs.

We have a responsibility to close the security gaps at the border to prevent even more dangerous individuals and drugs from reaching our communities, but again, based on the lack of interest expressed or actions taken, the Biden administration doesn't seem to care. The Border Patrol has made no secret of the fact that it lacks the personnel, resources, and policies that only Congress can provide to carry out their mission. Agents do not feel like the Biden administration has their back, and it is for good reason.

Since President Biden took office, we have seen no meaningful action to address the humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border. The Biden administration has ignored the needs of Federal law enforcement officers in order to appease, apparently, part of its political base who doesn't believe that there should be any border controls, who believes our borders should be open and are oblivious to the danger that poses. So, make no mistake about it, this is both a humanitarian and a security crisis, and the Biden administration's refusal to act has only made things worse.

We know the American people see crime as a big problem, and there are a lot of reasons for that, but the Biden administration needs to address the security breakdown at the border because what is happening there has made our communities even more dangerous.