GOP lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, make trip to Texas-Mexico border

Lawmakers in DC are still in negotiations to pass a border policy bill.

By Sarah AschJanuary 4, 2024 1:34 pm, ,

As a large GOP junket led by House Speaker Mike Johnson arrived in Eagle Pass near the southern border on Wednesday, an election year deal on border security seemed to be hanging in the balance.

Johnson used the trip to call attention to President Joe Biden’s border policies as he tried to make the case for a return to the policies of the Trump era — including keeping migrants in Mexico until their day in immigration court.

Biden, for his part, has put the onus on Republicans to craft a bill to fund immigration enforcement that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on. Such a bipartisan bill does not seem to be in the immediate future.

Valerie Gonzalez, who covers immigration and border issues for the Associated Press, said the number of migrants crossing the border has dwindled in recent weeks as part of an expected holiday lull.

“Just to give you an idea of the change, there is a large field in Eagle Pass just underneath the railroad crossing where there were processing migrants. About two weeks ago, that field was full of people. Yesterday, that field was entirely empty,” she said. “According to the numbers from Customs and Border Protection, there were about 10,000 daily encounters with migrants (back in December) along the entire southern border. And on Monday, according to senior administration officials, there were 2,500. So the numbers have gone down pretty notably.”

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Gonzalez said the GOP contingent visited now, despite the lull in migrant crossings, because of the ongoing political negotiations.

“There have been different strategies to try and address the policy at the border that have led to the increased number of people coming through the border,” Gonzalez said. “The Republicans in the House passed their bill back in May that would create a much more difficult pathway for asylum seekers attempting to come into the country. And the Senate is working on their own version.

“But House Republicans passed that bill back in May with absolutely no Democratic support. So right now, they’re in key negotiations for what will happen at the border. And this was just, you know, the time in between to kind of see things in real time.”

The state of border legislation is also complicated by its ties to other issues in Washington, including aid for the war in Ukraine against Russia. Lawmakers will have to return to the dealmaking process, which was paused for the holiday season, in order to avoid a government shutdown, Gonzalez said.

“Yesterday, the Republican representatives stopped short of saying they would not vote unless there was a shutdown – or rather, that they would wait through a shutdown. But they did say that their main focus is on the bill that they passed,” she said. “And even though the Senate is working on a bipartisan bill, they’re reluctant to vote on anything unless it looks very close to the bill that they already passed.”

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