A bipartisan group of U.S. senators will tour the southern border next week, just after President Biden will visit Texas, amid calls for congressional action to solve the migrant crisis following a two-year stalemate in Washington.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, will lead the delegation to both Texas and Arizona on Monday and Tuesday to see the ongoing situation at the border, where officials and frontline agents have been dealing with a historic crisis for two years.
Also on the trip will be Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Thom Tillis, R-N.C., James Lankford R-Okla., Chris Coons, D-Del., Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn. According to a release, they will travel to El Paso, Texas, which Biden will also visit on his trip to the border on Sunday. The senators will also visit Yuma, Arizona, where they will meet with Border Patrol agents and hear from local law enforcement and community leaders, as well as representatives of non-profits.
There were more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021 and over 2.3 million in FY22. So far, the first two months of FY 2023 have outpaced the first two months of the prior fiscal year, suggesting that the crisis at the border is only deepening in President Biden's third year in office.
President Biden unveiled a number of border security measures, including an expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include a limited number of Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans and expanded parole programs for those nationalities, in a speech on Thursday in which he also confirmed that he will visit Texas on Sunday.
But the senators said in their statements that they recognized the need for congressional action that has been lacking in recent years.
"Arizona border communities shoulder the burden of Washington’s failure to solve our border and immigration crisis," Sinema said in a statement. "I’m glad to lead a bipartisan group of my colleagues to visit the Southwest Border and I appreciate their commitment to learning and understanding the many diverse challenges facing our border communities. I believe by working together we can bridge divides, help find lasting solutions, and start solving the crisis at our border."
Cornyn said the "humanitarian and national security crisis at our southern border has created untenable and unacceptable challenges for Texas communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, which is why I’m glad my colleagues from across the country will see the impacts of this firsthand." He added that he hopes that the visit will "result in meaningful discussions about finally securing our border and giving these communities tangible relief."
Those sentiments were also expressed by other lawmakers. Kelly said that he hopes the visit would "better inform our ongoing work to fix our broken immigration system and ensure a secure, orderly, and humane border response." Lankford said that it is "time to get serious about enforcing the law and supporting our Border Patrol, and this trip will help to show my colleagues the need to fix our nation’s broken asylum process and the need to improve the vetting of illegal migrants."
The Biden administration has taken heat, particularly but not exclusively from Republicans, for its handling of the border crisis. Republicans have accused the administration of fueling the crisis by rolling back Trump-era border protections.
However, the administration has highlighted a "broken" immigration system and called for sweeping congressional action. Specifically, Biden has called for the passage of a bill introduced in early 2021 that would increase funding but also would give a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants — a feature that is a non-starter for Republicans.
Some of the senators on the border trip have introduced more limited bipartisan proposals that they believe can muster enough support to pass both the House and Senate. But with a Republican House and a Democratic White House and Senate, the measures that may now be able to pass are likely to be limited.
Biden, however, has emphasized that he believes the sweeping reform proposed on his first day in office is the way to end the crisis.
"That work will not be done unless and until Congress enacts and funds a more comprehensive immigration plan that I proposed on day one," Biden said.