- A new border security bill released by the Senate on Sunday would not require the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
- The bill allows funding for a wall but severely curtails its construction and dimensions amid Democratic opposition to the idea, while also including provisions that protect the government’s authority to parole foreign nationals.
- “It’s protected for the next administration. It’s blocked off to be actually real wall construction,” said Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the lead Republican who drafted the bill, on The Hugh Hewitt Show.
New border security legislation released by the Senate on Sunday doesn’t mandate the construction of a wall along the United States’ international border with Mexico, but does allow a barrier to be built with certain restrictions.
The bipartisan bill, titled the “Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024,” was negotiated by Republican and Democratic senators over two months, and would appropriate $118 billion in total for a variety of matters, including aid to Ukraine during its war against Russia and Israel during its conflict with Hamas, as well as border security. The Senate bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) to construct a “steel bollard pedestrian barrier” along the border with Mexico, but does not require that it be done, while also specifying several restrictions on how it may be built.
“We recapitalized to make sure it’s actually protected. It’s protected for the next administration. It’s blocked off to be actually real wall construction and to keep this administration from spending that money for environmental remediation as they have used the money for already,” said Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the bill’s chief GOP negotiator, on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” on Monday.
The Senate bill specifies that the wall, which is referred to as a “pedestrian barrier” must be “at least 18 to 30 feet in effective height and augmented with anti-climb and anti-dig features.” However, it includes language that limits the funds for this express purpose, stating that “none of the funds allocated for pedestrian physical barriers…may be made available for any purpose other than construction of pedestrian barriers.”
That language aims to limit the construction of a wall to previously identified locations along the southern border in 2020, during the Trump administration, and will not cover the entirety of its length. However, it allows the plan to be modified with the permission of Congress.
In this respect, the Senate bill’s language departs from provisions about a wall included in the “Secure the Border Act,” a bill drafted by House Republicans that passed the chamber in May of 2023. That bill requires its construction, stating that “the Secretary of Homeland Security shall construct a border wall, including physical barriers, tactical infrastructure, and technology, along not fewer than 900 miles of the southwest border.”
The exact amount of money allocated in the Senate bill, which is based on unobligated balances in previous legislation, is not specified in the bill. Lankford has claimed that it would amount to “$650 million,” according to a press release issued by his office.
During the 2016 presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump promised to build a wall along the length of the U.S. international border with Mexico, with an additional promise that Mexico would fund its construction. It was the focal point of a dispute between Trump and Democrats in Congress at the outset of 2019, with Democrats refusing to support funds for the wall, which prompted a 34-day government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.
Since then, Democrats have refused to support the construction of a wall along the border, though have conceded to support funding for upgraded barriers. “It’s immoral,” said Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, in 2018 of a wall proposed by Trump.
Trump, in 2018, indicated that he was willing to close the border and shut down the government if the wall was not funded.
After the dispute in 2019, Trump declared a national emergency in order to repurpose funds for construction of the wall. It was rescinded by the Biden administration.
In total, the Trump administration built 458 miles of new wall. In 2023, the Biden administration began construction on 20 miles of the wall, though Biden claimed that it was to comply with existing laws mandating its construction.
Apart from the wall, the Senate bill appears to create an imbalance in the granting of advanced parole to foreign nationals seeking protection in the United States from alleged persecution. In section 244A, the Senate bill requires that foreign nationals who arrive from a “contiguous continental land border” be subject to expedited asylum and removal procedures, though does not require the same of foreign nationals arriving at airports or seaports.
The Biden administration’s parole programs for foreign nationals, who have fled countries such as Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and Ukraine, have been the target of congressional Republicans’ ire, who seek their dramatic reduction or closure. “President Biden has abused the immigration parole system to allow millions of migrants to enter who shouldn’t qualify,” wrote Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas on Twitter, now known as X, on Jan. 7.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection(CBP) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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