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U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson visits border, demands that Biden administration crack down on illegal immigration

By Uriel J. García, The Texas Tribune

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson visits border, demands that Biden administration crack down on illegal immigration” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson traveled to the Texas-Mexico border on Wednesday and said that if President Joe Biden wants Republican support for helping Ukraine and Israel in their wars, he needs to crack down on illegal immigration at the border.

“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it better begin by defending America’s national security. It begins right here on our southern border,” Johnson said during a news conference at the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, where he was accompanied by 60 other House Republican lawmakers.

Biden has asked Congress to approve a $110 billion security funding bill that would include financial aid for Ukraine and Israel. On the Senate side, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has been meeting to come to an agreement on Biden’s request.

Johnson made it clear Wednesday that to get House Republicans’ support, he would have to get behind a hardline immigration proposal that House Republicans approved last year — without any Democratic votes — to build more border walls and put restrictions on asylum claims by migrants.

“We want to get the border closed and secured first,” Johnson said.

During the news conference, Republicans said they also want the Biden administration to bring back a Trump-era policy known as “remain in Mexico,” which forced some migrants to stay in Mexico as their asylum claims were pending in U.S. immigration courts.

“The solution is to go back to the policies that worked,” U.S. Rep Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said during the press conference. “The solution is our legislation, or the solution is simply, I think, one sentence: No money can be used to process or release into the country any new migrants.”

U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-San Antonio, said House Republicans want to keep the U.S. safe, which requires that the federal government deport undocumented immigrants “by the thousands, not by the dozens.”

Eagle Pass in recent months has become the epicenter of the immigration debate as thousands of migrants have tried to cross the Rio Grande into the city.

Meanwhile, Gov. Greg Abbott has steadily increased the state’s efforts to block migrants at the border, ordering 70,000 rolls of concertina wire deployed along the river at a cost of $11 million and sending state troopers and National Guard members to different parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

In December, Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 4, which would make it a state crime to to cross the Texas-Mexico border between ports of entry, allow Texas police to arrest migrants suspected of crossing the border illegally and require state judges to order migrants returned to Mexico if they are convicted.

Last month, the number of migrant encounters reported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees federal immigration agents, was estimated to hit a monthly record of 300,000 across the southern Border, according to CBS News. That doesn’t include encounters between migrants and Texas state troopers and National Guard members.

The increase in migrant crossings caused the federal government to temporarily close four ports of entry during December in Eagle Pass; Lukeville and Nogales, Ariz.; and San Ysidro, Calif. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement that those four ports of entry will reopen on Thursday.

“CBP will continue to prioritize our border security mission as necessary in response to this evolving situation,” the agency said in a statement. “We continue to assess security situations, adjust our operational plans, and deploy resources to maximize enforcement efforts against those non-citizens who do not use lawful pathways or processes.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/03/texas-mexico-border-house-speaker-johnson-immigration/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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