Weekly Columns

Right before the Senate broke for August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force the President’s request for a blank check to deal with the border crisis through the Senate.

I voted no. The bill failed.

Immediately following votes, I left with six of my Senate colleagues for a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter of the surge in families and unaccompanied children illegally crossing the U.S. border.

What I learned on this trip reaffirmed that “no” vote was the correct one to cast.

Our itinerary took us to McAllen Border Patrol Station, Hidalgo International Bridge and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where many of the children who have illegally crossed the southwest border on their own are temporarily housed.

What we heard from those on the ground was that the massive wave of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the border has slowed to a degree, although there is reason to believe there may be another uptick when summer ends.  However, the heat is not the only deterrent. People in the three Central American countries that have been sending their children to the U.S. alone are starting to get the message that if their children enter the U.S. illegally, they won’t get to stay. As I have said all along, certainty of return is the only way to stop the wave.

The good news is that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) is no longer overwhelmed to the point where children are housed on the floor of the processing center. Agents are no longer microwaving meals for children. Even the temporary HHS shelter we visited at Lackland AFB, where some of the children were sent after initial processing, is set to close very soon.

Clearly CBP and HHS have the resources they need. A blank check is not necessary. Nor is it an honest solution to the problem.

Furthermore, amnesty is not an option. The President needs to stop with the threats to go it alone and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. We must not reward people for breaking the law. As we are learning with the current crisis, the risk of being rewarded for breaking the law is what drives many to enter the U.S. illegally in the first place. We are a nation based on laws and those laws must be respected and that message must be reinforced internationally so that those who wish to emigrate to the U.S. understand they must do so through the proper legal channels.

The problem at our border is much greater than the current crisis involving unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S. Our borders are far too porous. 

We must secure our borders. We must stop allowing individuals to enter the country illegally without recourse. We must hold those who break the law accountable. No immigration reform policies we pass will be effective until we secure the border.

We are a nation of immigrants and must remain welcoming to those who want to achieve the American Dream. However, it is vital that we enforce the law and ensure the safety and security of our nation. We must look to forward-thinking solutions to our problem with illegal immigration, not the failed policies of the past.