Obstruction by Democrats comes despite likelihood that record illegal immigration and drug-overdose deaths will get substantially worse
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today sought to pass his “Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act” legislation, which would add large-scale drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 expedited removal immigration authority, after a federal judge outlawed the continued use of existing Title 42 authority this week, but Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) blocked the legislation. Hagerty spoke on the Senate floor about the national security and humanitarian crisis transpiring at the southern border and warned that eliminating Title 42 will greatly exacerbate the already-record-breaking crisis. Senate Democrats blocked this bill in April, but given the new urgency following this week’s court ruling, Hagerty again urged the Senate to take this commonsense step to preserve Title 42 authority. In April, when Hagerty led a group of Tennessee sheriffs and mayors to the border, Border Patrol agents warned that Title 42 is the last tool left for stopping illegal border crossers and the fentanyl coming across our southern border, which is largely responsible for nearly 107,000 American deaths last year from drug overdoses. Yet, Democrats refused to allow its passage.
Senator Hagerty’s remarks and the debate exchange may be found here. Text of his remarks is below.
Senator Hagerty: Earlier this week, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. outlawed the continued use of Title 42 pandemic-related authority for the expedited removal of aliens who enter our country illegally. The judge found that the policy should be updated because the COVID-19 pandemic has changed since 2020.
I agree. The pandemic is over. But the border crisis is not over—in fact, it’s worse than ever. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that provides a far-stronger reason for invoking Title 42 authority: the deadly drug-smuggling crisis at our southern border that is killing a record number of Americans.
The Biden Administration has dismantled our nation’s most effective border-security policies. When I led a group of Tennessee sheriffs and mayors to the border this past April, Border Patrol agents in Laredo told me that the Migrant Protection Protocols—known as “MPP” or “Remain in Mexico”—were a painful illustration of the Biden Administration’s destruction of these border-security tools. MPP required migrants seeking asylum in the United States to remain in Mexico until it was determined whether they were actually entitled to asylum. The vast majority of those claiming asylum are not actually entitled to it.
When MPP was implemented in 2019, the agents said it was “like flipping a switch”—because people stopped coming when they learned they wouldn’t get in. Once the Biden Administration halted this policy, illegal immigration catapulted to record numbers.
In Fiscal Year 2021, more than 1.7 million known illegal border crossings occurred—a new record. The record was short-lived, though, because in Fiscal Year 2022, which ended in September, nearly 2.4 million illegal crossings were documented, exceeding the 2021 record by 37 percent. And that doesn’t take into account the “gotaways.” Last month set a new record for October, with more than 230,000 illegal aliens. These figures are just the crossings that the agents see and document.
When I traveled to the border in April, Border Patrol agents told me that Title 42 was the last tool they had left to partially slow the ongoing tidal wave of illegal crossings. If we allow a D.C. judge to remove Title 42 authority, our Border Patrol agents will have no tool to stem the massive increase in illegal immigration that is sure to follow. And that’s why, given this recent court ruling, passing my legislation today is imperative.
To illustrate, Border Patrol currently has capacity to process a maximum of roughly 5,000 illegal migrants per day; right now, they are already overwhelmed, processing nearly 8,000 per day. Predictions from agents and former immigration judges are that—without Title 42 authority—this number would likely double to between 15,000 and 18,000 illegal aliens per day.
This would overwhelm processing capacity, and the border would effectively cease to exist. Such a surrender of American security and sovereignty is intolerable.
The Department of Homeland Security itself said in response to this week’s court decision: “We will prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border. We know that smugglers will lie to try to take advantage of vulnerable migrants, putting lives at risk.”
Yes, it is true that we need policies to replace Title 42 and that smugglers will use this court ruling to entice thousands more migrants per day to cross the border illegally, which will risk lives and magnify the humanitarian crisis at our southern border in a variety of ways.
If swift removal under Title 42 is a possibility, would-be border crossers may decide not to embark. Without Title 42, there is nothing left to dissuade them.
Further, without Title 42, the drug cartels send migrants across at strategic points to bog down Border Patrol agents with paperwork processing. And the paperwork processing timeframe is five times longer without Title 42. Do the math—removing Title 42 will collapse what is left of our Border Patrol’s capacity. And with Border Patrol bogged down further, the cartels will use the resulting enforcement gaps to move their fentanyl—produced with the help of the Chinese Communist Party—across our border. We cannot allow more enforcement gaps for deadly drug smuggling.
That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to add drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 authority. It’s called the “Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act.” Overdoses have become an epidemic in America. This legislation would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use Title 42 to combat substantial, dangerous drug trafficking across the border. This bill would give Border Patrol a necessary tool to focus on stopping drug traffickers.
According to the CDC, drug-overdose deaths reached another record high last year. Nearly 107,000 Americans died, many from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids coming across our southern border. We desperately need Title 42 to aid in the fight against this drug epidemic.
Without this authority, the record-breaking border crisis—and the deadly drug-overdose crisis it fuels—will become unimaginably worse.
The motion was objected to by Murray, who opposed providing this executive authority to save American lives from deadly Chinese fentanyl being trafficked across the border.
Senator Hagerty: Mr. President, my Democratic colleague has objected to legislation that simply gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to limit border crossings when necessary to combat substantial, dangerous illicit drug smuggling.
It doesn’t provide authority to stop all asylum claims. It only applies where substantial illicit drug smuggling is endangering public health. More than 100,000 Americans are dying annually of drug overdoses—many of which result from drug smuggling at our southern border.
The legislation isn’t a mandate. It is a tool to help save American lives whenever that is possible.
Everyone acknowledges that an already-record-breaking crisis will get far worse without Title 42. American lives and communities hang in the balance.
Yet, my colleagues across the aisle are categorically opposed to a commonsense policy to address this glaring problem.
It begs the question: What do Democrats propose that we do in response to this Title 42 ruling? Refuse to deal with the problem? Hope that this crisis won’t spiral further out of control? These are not acceptable answers.
More broadly, is any volume of illegal immigration or drug overdose deaths adequate to get this Administration to secure the border?
How much longer will we allow our broken border policies to be manipulated by a criminal alliance between the Chinese Communists and the billion-dollar Mexican drug cartels that are shipping huge quantities of deadly illegal drugs into the United States across our southern border?
Mr. President, I yield the floor.