Biden Announces Major Border Clampdown, Minus the Funding

Biden Announces Major Border Clampdown, Minus the Funding

Biden spoke at the White House.
Sipa USA
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Happy Tuesday! President Joe Biden unveiled significant restrictions today on migrants seeking asylum at the southern border. Congress, meanwhile, was abuzz with numerous hearings, including sessions on Social Security and unemployment insurance. Attorney General Merrick Garland made the most headlines by pointedly defending the Justice Department in the face of attacks from House Judiciary Committee Republicans, who have threatened to hold him in contempt in a fight over access to audio recordings of the president discussing the classified documents found at his home.

"These repeated attacks on the Justice Department are unprecedented and unfounded," Garland said. "I view contempt as a serious matter. But I will not jeopardize the ability of our prosecutors and agents to do their jobs effectively in future investigations. I will not be intimidated. And the Justice Department will not be intimidated. We will continue to do our jobs free from political influence. And we will not back down from defending democracy."

Here’s what else is going on.

Biden’s New Border Clampdown Faces Legal, Funding Challenges

Saying that Republicans "have left me no choice," President Joe Biden issued an executive order today that would bar most migrants entering between ports of entry from seeking asylum when illegal border crossings reach a seven-day average of 2,500 — a threshold below current levels, meaning that the president’s directive should take effect immediately.

The move has generated significant controversy and criticism. The American Civil Liberties Union quickly vowed to challenge the order in court. "It was illegal when [former President Donald] Trump did it, and it is no less illegal now," Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement.

Many on the left have openly assailed the president’s action, saying it fails to truly address the problems with the immigration system or create a pathway to lawful status for undocumented immigrants. Republicans, meanwhile, questioned the timing of Biden’s action, coming as it does just five months before the November election. They dismissed it as a "political stunt" and said it was too little, too late.

A funding question: Biden reportedly had contemplated taking executive action for months. Migrant encounters at the southern border have reportedly been falling since December, but administration officials told the Associated Press that the numbers were still too high and could surge higher with better weather. The announcement also comes after Mexico’s presidential election.

Biden said Tuesday that he went ahead now because Congress had refused to act, and he criticized former President Donald Trump and Republicans for blocking a bipartisan deal reached earlier this year that included many GOP priorities. Biden called that plan the strongest border security agreement in decades. "Frankly, I would have preferred to address this issue through bipartisan legislation," he said, "because that’s the only way to actually get the kind of system we have now, that’s broken, fixed — to hire more border patrol agents, more asylum officers, more judges. But Republicans have left me no choice."

The bipartisan deal that most Republicans rejected included more than $20 billion for immigration enforcement, including funds to add more than 1,500 Customs and Border Protection personnel and 4,300 asylum officers. "To truly secure the border, we have to change our laws and Congress needs to provide the necessary funding," Biden said.

The lack of new funding leaves many questions about how the president’s new directive will work and doubts about whether the administration will be able to meet its goal of deporting migrants quickly. The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti warned: "Without additional funding, the administration’s ability to close the border to illegal crossings may face many of the same limitations that have hampered previous efforts to deter migration by curbing asylum access. U.S. border authorities lack detention space, deportation capacity and sufficient number of asylum officers to uphold the basic U.S. legal obligations to prevent someone from being sent home to face torture, death or other grievous harm."

Quote of the Day

"We have a system right now where a professional baseball player who earns millions of dollars in a season hits their Social Security cap at their first at-bat … and for the rest of the season does not pay into the Social Security trust fund. I think if we could balance that out to make it a little bit fairer for everybody, we would find some revenue to extend the livelihood of the Social Security trust fund."

− Rep. Linda Sanchez, a Democrat from California, speaking at a hearing Tuesday held by the Social Security subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The hearing featured three experts — Stephen Goss of the Social Security Administration, Phillip Swagel of the Congressional Budget Office and Barry Huston of the Congressional Research Service — who reviewed the outlook for the Social Security trust funds.

With the combined Social Security trust fund projected to run dry in 2035, policymakers are exploring options for maintaining the program past that date. Along with other Democrats, Sanchez has called for raising the cap on Social Security taxes, which under current law phase out above $168,600 in annual income.

Numbers of the Day

$2.2 Billion: House Republican appropriators are proposing to cut IRS funding by $2.2 billion to $10.1 billion for 2025, including slashing enforcement money by $2 billion, The Hill reports. Their plan would also eliminate the free online tax-filing system that the agency introduced this year and plans to expand.

$5.2 Million: Starting last year, lawmakers in the House no longer need to provide receipts when requesting reimbursement for expenses incurred while they are in Washington on official business, and according to a new analysis by The Washington Post, more than 300 House members received a total of at least $5.2 million in reimbursement in the first 11 months of 2023.

Although the new reimbursement rules were passed on a bipartisan basis with the goal of making it easier for representatives to get by financially in an expensive part of the country, critics say they open the process to possible abuse. Lawmakers can request reimbursement for food and lodging expenses, but not mortgage and interest costs.

In total, 319 members of the House received some reimbursement — 153 Democrats and 166 Republicans. The member who received the most is Rep. Matt Gaetz, the controversial Florida conservative, who received roughly $40,000 in reimbursements, including about $30,000 for lodging and $10,000 for food.

Another lawmaker who received significant reimbursement is Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat who purchased a $1.2 million home in Washington in 2020. Swalwell received nearly $19,000 for lodging expenses, with the money going toward taxes, insurance and maintenance, a spokesperson for the congressman told the Post.

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