BY SEN. JOHN BOOZMAN
Illegal immigrants began flocking to our southern border in droves in early 2021 after hearing months of campaign trail rhetoric from Joe Biden. To them, it sounded like an open invitation to come to the United States.
The influx of migrants hasn’t let up since, and the results have been catastrophic for many of them, for U.S. sovereignty and national security, and now possibly for America’s veterans.
Biden intends to lift the Title 42 public health directive enacted during the Trump administration that allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents to prohibit entry into our country to those who pose health risks such as COVID-19. It’s the latest example of the Biden administration talking out of both sides of its mouth on COVID. Biden argues for more pandemic-related funding, defends the travel mask mandate in court, and extends relief programs such as the student loan moratorium as if COVID were still serious, then he turns around and undoes a public health measure at the border, which will at least double illegal border crossing attempts.
The chaos and human suffering underway at the southern border will only get worse if Title 42 is lifted. The Biden administration admits as much.
So, the question then becomes, how does Biden propose to manage the crisis and keep the situation from deteriorating into a near-total state of disarray?
That’s where a whole new problem emerges. And it would mean terrible consequences for America’s veterans.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has confirmed that the DHS has held conversations with the Department of Veterans Affairs about reallocating its resources and personnel to help respond to the expected surge that will occur at the southern border when Title 42 ends. White House press secretary Jen Psaki also acknowledged that the administration envisions including the VA in its plan, presumably as part of the Department’s “Fourth Mission” designed, in part, “to support national, state, and local emergency management, public health, safety, and homeland security efforts."
That is troubling on several fronts and outrageous on its face.
The VA loses roughly 40,000 individuals in a typical year due to retirement, firings, or outside employment. Right now, there are more than 10,000 additional vacancies within the Veterans Health Administration workforce of doctors and other essential staff. Additionally, the VA is experiencing a 15-year high turnover rate among its nursing ranks.
Despite efforts in Congress to address this shortfall in manpower, it persists. Given this reality, there is no justification for diverting an already strained workforce away from caring for the men and women who bravely served our country and instead deploying them to provide services to illegal immigrants.
The VA’s Fourth Mission is essential to the interagency response during national emergencies. However, it should not be used for a foreseeable and avoidable crisis. VA employees have and continue to perform honorably in caring for veterans and their fellow Americans throughout the pandemic, and I applaud them.
But the inevitable escalation of illegal immigration once Title 42 enforcement ends is a humanitarian crisis of the Biden administration’s own making. There is no justification for compromising veterans’ care to manage Biden's failures at the border.
Prioritizing migrants here unlawfully before the needs of patriotic and heroic veterans is inconceivable and wrong. We have an obligation to provide quality and timely care to those who answered the call to provide for our nation’s defense.
America’s veterans have given everything for this country. We can’t let the resources and personnel that are supposed to be dedicated to taking care of them get ripped away because the president and his administration have so badly mismanaged our border security and illegal immigration problem. They don’t deserve it, and we won’t stand for it.
I’m leading efforts in the Senate to fight this absurd and shameful proposal, including by introducing legislation to block the Biden administration from diverting VA resources to the southern border.
If Biden wants to get our border under control, he should return to the successful Trump-era immigration policies that discouraged illegal immigration and clearly signaled that our border was not wide open, rather than asking America’s veterans to make a profound sacrifice they cannot and should not be asked to bear.
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