Oklahoma Senator Republican Jim Lankford has for the last four months been a key player in the Senate negotiations to try to craft a border security bill. A few days ago, the Oklahoma Republican Party approved a resolution censuring Lankford.
Lankford’s home state Republicans accused him of “playing fast and loose with Democrats on border policy. They called on him to “cease and desist jeopardizing the security and liberty” of Americans.
And that was before Lankford and his fellow negotiators even released a bill! This is another indication of just how bad our politics have become. Lankford is consistently ranked as one of the most conservative Senators in the country, yet he is attacked by his own party because he dares try to reach a bipartisan agreement on the border and immigration.
Now the bill is out, and some Washington Republicans are piling on. “Let me be clear: The Senate Border Bill will NOT receive a vote in the House,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.). House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) proclaimed the bill “dead on arrival” if it reaches the House.
Former President Donald Trump is making opposition to the bill a litmus test for Republicans. He called the bill “a great gift to the Democrats and death wish for the Republican Party.”
The reality is that the bill tackles many of the border-related issues that Congress has ignored for years. Most importantly, it toughens the ambiguous and abused asylum system. Currently, anyone who sets foot on U.S. soil can claim asylum, creating what is often called the “catch and release” practice.
The bill raises the bar for the definition of “credible fear of persecution,” and allows for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service to relocate the asylum seeker to their country of origin or of their last residence in lieu of seeking protection in the United States.
The legislation also grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the power to declare a border emergency if the number of illegals entering the country reaches between 4,000 and 5,000 per day. Republican opponents are highly critical of this provision as being too lenient, but the aforementioned tightening to the asylum rules should curtail the crossings significantly.
It will be a tough road ahead for the legislation. The bill needs Republican support in the Senate to pass. Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito complimented Lankford for “working tirelessly with members across the aisle to reach a bipartisan solution,” Capito said in a prepared statement. “Now that we have actual legislative text, I look forward to reviewing the text.”
So, she is remaining non-committal for the moment, and it is fair to give legislators a few days to fully understand the bill, which is over 300 pages long and includes funding for Ukraine and Israel. But if not now, when?
Big issues are best resolved in bipartisan fashion that more accurately reflects a broader cross-section of the country and reduces the ability of one party or the other to create a wedge issue for political gain.
We will learn that the bill is not perfect and not all that either side wants, but that is what happens with consensus building. It is long past time for Congress to do its job by passing legislation that improves border security and modernizes our broken immigration policies. The political posturing solves nothing.