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Myth vs. Truth: Dissecting the Republican narrative about the border

By Rep. Gerry Connolly

Republicans are clamoring over themselves to blame President Joe Biden for any and every challenge facing America. Nowhere is that more apparent than on the issue of immigration and border security.

If you listen to my Republican colleagues, you’d believe Joe Biden single-handedly broke our immigration system and refuses to fix it. They keep this lie alive by perpetuating a series of myths about Democrats and the border.

It’s time to correct the record.

MYTH: The Biden administration has implemented an “open border” policy that has created chaos at our border with Mexico.

TRUTH: President Biden inherited an immigration system in tatters. The Trump administration cut off legal pathways to citizenship, leaving would-be migrants with fewer lawful methods of entering the country. They cut funding to Central American countries in 2019 as they splurged on an ineffective, costly wall.

It was the Trump administration that tightened sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, exacerbating the macroeconomic crises that have led hundreds of thousands to flee and arrive at the southern border. When they pulled the rug out from various, essential assistance programs, they made the problem worse.
But our immigration system has been broken for many decades — long before Joe Biden or Donald Trump took the oath of office. Time and again, Democrats have proposed solutions to fix the immigration system in a reasonable, humane way. And time and again, Republicans have opposed these efforts at every turn.

One might recall that in 2013, House Republicans thwarted comprehensive immigration reform after an agreement was reached in the Senate. Many of those same House Republicans who prevented that legislation from passing are now intent on blaming irregular migration, an issue our country has dealt with for over a century, solely on the Biden administration.

There’s only one problem with their affinity for blaming Democrats — it doesn’t hold up to basic scrutiny. In fact, between December 2022 and January 2023, the Biden-Harris administration halved the number of encounters at the border and reduced the number of Cuban, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, and Haitian migrants by 97 percent.

MYTH: The Biden administration has ignored the border and is refusing to commit proper resources to it.

TRUTH: The idea that Democrats have ignored the situation at the border and refused to commit resources to solving it is another outright lie. In reality, the Biden-Harris administration and congressional Democrats have surged record levels of funding to the border.

The FY23 government funding package that President Biden signed into law provided Border Patrol with $7.153 billion — a 17 percent increase from the year before. Additionally, the funding package provided $65 million for 300 new Border Patrol agents, $60 million for 125 new personnel at points of entry; and $230 million for technology like autonomous surveillance towers.

House Republicans voted against this historic funding.

MYTH: Biden’s “open border” policies allow undocumented immigrants to flood the country with deadly fentanyl.

TRUTH: Republicans continue to blame vulnerable migrants fleeing violence, hunger, and natural disasters for illicit drug smuggling, but facts are stubborn things. Over 90 percent of fentanyl, and over 80 percent of total illegal narcotics, arrive at legal points of entry—not between them—and are smuggled largely by Americans—not undocumented migrants. In fact, migrants accounted for less than 9 percent of fentanyl trafficking convictions in FY 21, compared to more than 86 percent for American citizens.

In December 2022, CBP seized 4,500 pounds of fentanyl, the largest amount ever recorded. Incredibly, just five of those 4,500 pounds were seized at the border by U.S. Border Patrol. Republicans are focused on 1 percent of the problem, 100 percent of the time.

MYTH: Biden’s “open border” policies have allowed criminals and terrorists to pour over the southern border unchecked, contributing to a spike in crime in America.

TRUTH: Study after study has shown that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Alternatives to Detention Program provides a strong example: The latest data from ICE released on Feb. 3, 2023, demonstrated 99.4 percent of immigrants monitored on ICE’s Alternatives to Detention Program attended their court hearings compared to the .6 percent which failed to attend their hearing.

Not all undocumented immigrants are tracked through this program, but immigrants, when paroled into the United States, overwhelmingly are lawful individuals that attend their court hearings. An American Immigration Council report found that over the past 11 years, an overwhelming 83 percent of immigrants attended their immigration court hearings, and those who failed to appear in court often did not receive notice or faced hardship in getting to court.

Republicans who assert the Biden administration is releasing countless dangerous migrants into the country are not only trafficking in xenophobic, anti-immigrant sentiment, but they are also peddling lies that are categorically false.

The situation at the border demands serious policy solutions that provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients; address the root causes of migration like repression, political instability, violence, hunger, and lack of economic opportunity; and fix our own broken immigration system.

To read this piece as it appeared on The Hill, click here.
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