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US-MEXICO-BORDER

House Dems sounding alarm on border crisis

House Democrats know the border crisis is a political liability for them. Now, some members are blaming their own party for it.

Democrats from border states are demanding the Biden administration do more to stem the influx of illegal migrants coming into the country, even if that means enacting tougher policies that not everyone in the party supports.

“The administration has taken too long to take serious action on some important border reforms,” Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) said. “It’s, of course, going to be a dominant issue in the election coming up.”

Republicans have focused their narrative around the migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, accusing President Joe Biden and Democrats of being soft on border security and taking little action to mitigate the flood of migrants coming into U.S. cities.

House Republicans have taken numerous trips to the border to witness firsthand what they say is the Biden administration’s disastrous policies. Conservative Republicans have blocked U.S. aid to Ukraine as well, arguing that the White House needs to secure U.S. borders first before pouring more money into its embattled ally. Speaker Mike Johnson also spoke to Biden by phone this week, encouraging him to use executive authority to take action on the border.

On top of that, the Homeland Security Committee officially launched its impeachment proceedings into DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this week. The committee and Mayorkas’ aides clashed Thursday over Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green’s (R-Tenn.) invitation for the secretary to testify next week.

Mayorkas will be meeting with a delegation of Mexican officials while Green is holding the hearing. But Mayorkas is ready to appear at another date under the proper circumstances, aides said. Mayorkas has testified before Congress 27 times, more than any other Cabinet official.

The White House also pushed back on claims of not being aggressive enough with several examples of times they deported undocumented migrants but declined to provide a statement.

Rep. Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.), who visited the border last year, said his party must do better to recognize the problems at the border.

“I’d say to my fellow Democrats ‘Don’t deny the fact that there are challenges,’” Magaziner told us.

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), whose district borders Mexico, went even further, calling for harsher tactics to mitigate the flow of migrants.

“We need to raise [the] credible fear standard” for asylum claims, Gonzalez said. “We need to enforce immigration laws on the border. We need to start removing people. We need to send a clear message to the world that if you show up to our border, just give us a laundry list of answers to our agents that you can’t come in. It’s time.”

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), one of the most vocal Democrats on border security, said the issue is “absolutely” going to dominate his party in November. Cuellar, who represents a border district, has been targeted by left-wing primary challengers over his moderate stances on issues, including border security and immigration.

“I’ve been saying this for years,” Cuellar told us. “We need to make some policy changes. We need to do some funding.”

Broader Context: White House officials and Mayorkas have been working for more than a month to reach a border deal with a bipartisan Senate group in order to help reduce unlawful border crossings. Concerned Democrats assert that the Biden administration should’ve engaged sooner, while prominent Hispanic leaders in Congress are warning Biden not to give into harsher GOP-backed changes on asylum and parole.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported more than 300,000 migrant encounters in December, reaching the highest level of encounters ever recorded.

Mica Soellner

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