James Inhofe, a Republican, represents Oklahoma in the U.S. Senate and is chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
On Thursday, the Senate will take up the House resolution to disapprove of the president’s emergency declaration. The question is simple: Do you believe, as President Trump does, that we have a crisis on the southern border that must be addressed to protect American families?
I do — and I will be voting to support the president this week, because the case for the emergency declaration is clear.
In one instance in January, Customs and Border Protection officers seized almost 254 pounds of fentanyl and nearly 395 pounds of methamphetamine at a port of entry on our southern border. According to one report citing an internal memo by the Department of Homeland Security, that is enough fentanyl to kill 57 million Americans. In February, more than 76,000 individuals were detained at the border, which is an 11-year high and more than double February 2018’s amount. And we’re still in the first quarter of 2019; this is an ongoing crisis, because more caravans are on the way, including one estimated in late January at more than 12,000 people.
In a one-week period earlier this year, Border Patrol agents arrested several criminals trying to enter or reenter the United States. Those arrested include an active MS-13 gang member, a man convicted of attempted murder, a man charged with sexual assault and convicted of felony burglary trying to reenter with his son, and three others convicted of various felonies including child molestation, abduction and kidnapping, and rape.
Each of these is a snapshot of a much larger problem that represents a crisis worthy of an emergency declaration on the border. The number of illegal entry apprehensions, drug apprehensions and asylum claims is only increasing. Compared with fiscal year 2017, fiscal year 2018 saw an increase of about 30 percent in Border Patrol apprehensions along our southwest border. Over the same time, officials report an increase of 22 percent in heroin seizures, 38 percent in methamphetamine seizures and 73 percent in fentanyl seizures. Meanwhile, asylum claims along our southern border have increased 2,000 percent over the past five years — choking our immigration system — despite the fact that only 9 percent of claims from Mexico and Central America are successful.
The numbers become even more concerning when you talk with our Border Patrol agents. I spent 20 years as a builder and developer in South Texas, and I have had the opportunity to meet with our brave men and women at our southern border many times over the past few years and hear straight from them what they need. Our agents on the frontlines tell me for every apprehension they make along the border, there is another person who gets into our country undetected. They know that drug cartels and human traffickers are using migrants to their advantage. The more migrants the cartels can push toward our border agents, the less likely those agents can detect and stop drugs and experienced criminals from finding their way across our border. That’s why a wall is so necessary.
Officials in the Department of Homeland Security estimate they need $25 billion over the next few years to fully fund a wall along our southern border. I introduced the WALL Act in January with several of my colleagues. This bill is the only measure that fully pays for the construction of a wall and does so by assessing harsher penalties on illegal immigration and closing loopholes that allow unauthorized immigrants to receive federal tax and welfare benefits. It’s a real solution, but Democrats won’t give it the time of day because they reject common-sense barriers in favor of open borders and obstructionism.
The refusal of Democrats to give our Border Patrol agents and our immigration enforcement officials the resources they need to secure the border puts all Americans at risk. They left the president with no choice but to declare a national emergency, and he is on sound legal footing. Border security is national security. Illegal immigration continues to escalate, and the situation on our border is not improving, even as Democrats try to deny it. It is a legitimate crisis, and we must respond by providing the necessary resources to protect our citizens.