March 17, 2021

Grassley on President Biden’s Border Crisis

Prepared Floor Remarks by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

On President Biden’s Border Crisis

Tuesday, March 16, 2021



I want to speak today about the ongoing crisis at our southern border – a crisis that was created by the Biden administration.
Since taking office, the Biden administration has advanced policies that undermine immigration enforcement. These policies undermine efforts to secure our southern border, and they encourage illegal immigration to the United States.
President Biden has signaled that, when it comes to illegal immigration, the United States is open for business again. Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats are doubling down on that position this week. They are working to pass several mass amnesty bills that contain no provisions related to securing the border.
It turns out people are paying attention.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection recently confirmed that it had encountered over 100,000 migrants attempting to cross the southern border in February – the first full month of the Biden administration. That’s the highest total for the month of February since 2006.
The number of single adults encountered at the southern border was up 175 percent compared to last February. The number of family units was up 170 percent. And the number of unaccompanied alien children was up 171 percent.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the care of UACs after they arrive in the United States, had 7,300 UAC referrals in February. That’s the highest number of February referrals in the history of the program.
As of late last week, HHS had over 8,500 UACs in its facilities. As of this past weekend, more than 4,200 were being held in CBP holding facilities with nearly 3,000 being held past the legal limit of 72 hours. These are the “kids in cages” who many of our Democratic colleagues were so outraged about a few years ago.
Curiously, we’re not seeing nearly as much outrage now.
Reports emerged late last week that one Border Patrol facility in Texas was operating at 729 percent of its pandemic capacity. Many minors who had been in custody for over five days were reportedly only able to shower once.
If this was happening during the Trump administration, our Democratic colleagues would be expressing their anger and outrage on any media outlet that would have them.
But because this crisis is happening as a result of President Biden’s policies, we hear mostly silence.
President Biden’s border crisis reaches beyond just these staggering numbers.
First, it is a humanitarian tragedy. The Biden administration’s policies have incentivized UACs and family units to make the incredibly dangerous trip to the southern border. On March 10th, Reuters reported that the Mexican government is worried that the Biden administration’s asylum policies “are stoking illegal immigration and creating business for organized crime.”
One Mexican official was quoted as saying “Migrants have become a commodity.” 
The article went on to discuss how gangs are “diversifying methods of smuggling” and how smugglers are advising migrants on how to more easily apply for asylum in the United States, including by bringing along children.
It also described how higher concentrations of migrants in areas near the U.S.-Mexico border have encouraged gangs to recruit some migrants as drug mules and to kidnap other migrants for money. This is a tragedy. And it is a tragedy created by the policies of the Biden administration.
Second, President Biden’s border crisis presents a public health threat in the middle of a pandemic. Recent reports have indicated that the Administration plans to turn two Texas facilities where migrant family units are being held into rapid processing centers. The plan is to hold the family units for three days or less.
It is unclear if all of these migrants are being tested for COVID-19, when they are being tested, how they are being tested or how they will be handled if they test positive.
Recent media reports also indicated that over 100 illegal immigrants who were released by DHS into the United States later tested positive for the virus. This is simply not acceptable.
Finally, President Biden’s border crisis has created a situation that is overwhelming the men and women who work to protect our border. It is straining the resources of agencies that must cope with the results of this administration’s misguided immigration policies.
One of the most important responsibilities of the federal government and any presidential administration is to enforce our immigration laws in a way that ensures the sovereignty of our borders, protects the American people and discourages illegal immigration. It is clear that the Biden administration has failed to live up to this responsibility.
I hope that the Biden administration changes course and begins to work with Congress in a bipartisan way to secure our border and reform our laws in way that discourages illegal immigration. If they instead continue on their current course, this will be just the first of many border surges to come over the next four years.