MGP says Biden must do more at Southern border as president issues executive order


Following months of repeated criticism of the federal government’s immigration policy, Third Congressional District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, has renewed pleas for President Joe Biden to take additional action to secure the Southern border.

Gluesenkamp Perez, who has frequently sought to distance her immigration policy from other House Democrats, said in a joint statement that a new executive order on immigration was “an overdue step.” She added that the “Southern border is still not secure.”

“We’ve long demanded President Biden change course and empower the border patrol, and he’s finally acting and listening to the law enforcement agents in the field like we’ve been telling him to do,” according to last week’s statement, which was signed by Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine, Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, and Don Davis, D-North Carolina.

The statement came as Biden unveiled a new executive order to curtail illegal immigration after Congress failed to pass immigration reform. As talks stalled earlier this year, Gluesenkamp Perez introduced a separate immigration proposal and was one of five Democrats who signed on to a Republican-led effort that failed in the House of Representatives.

“We come here today to do what Republicans in Congress refuse to do — take the necessary steps to protect the Southern border,” Biden said at a news conference last week.

Under the new executive action, migrants who cross the border illegally will be prevented from seeking asylum once a daily threshold is reached. Migrants will be turned away to Mexico or returned to their origin country unless certain exemptions are met.

“Those who seek to come to the United States legally, for example, by making an appointment and coming to a point of entry, asylum will still be available. It’s still available,” Biden said. “But if an individual chooses not to use our legal pathways, if they choose to come without permission and against the law, they will be restricted from seeking asylum and entering the United States.”

According to the Associated Press, the order will go into effect when the number of border encounters between ports of entry hits 2,500 per day, a threshold the United States has surpassed every month since January 2021.

The restrictions, Biden said, “will remain in place until the number of people trying to enter illegally is reduced to a level our system can effectively manage.” According to the Associated Press, Homeland Security predicts arrests for illegal border crossings peak at 6,700 a day from July through September.

According to Biden’s proclamation, from May 12, 2023, to May 1, 2024, the federal government “removed or returned” more than 720,000 noncitizens, “the vast majority of whom crossed the southwest land border.”

In the statement last week, the representatives said the “job is far from over for the president and Congress.”

“To that end, in addition to his action today, President Biden needs to use the authority given to the executive by Congress to immediately reimplement 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(C), and we are again calling on leaders in both the House and Senate to pass legislation to give the Border Patrol back the expulsion authority that expired last year,” the statement said.

In the proclamation, Biden called on Congress to pass reforms to improve the federal immigration system, which include hiring an additional 1,500 border security agents, 100 immigration judges, 4,300 new asylum officers, and around 100 more “high-tech detection machines” to screen for fentanyl.

“While my administration has vigorously enforced the law within the constraints imposed by the existing system, the statutory framework put in place by the Congress is outdated,” the proclamation states. “For the vast majority of people in immigration proceedings, the current laws make it impossible to quickly grant protection to those who require it and to quickly remove those who do not establish a legal basis to remain in the United States.”

A frequent critic of the president’s immigration policy, Gluesenkamp Perez has repeatedly called for action at the Southern border. As the president prepared to visit Seattle in May, Gluesenkamp Perez said a Department of Homeland Security proposal to remove some asylum seekers quicker was “not good enough.”

In April, Gluesenkamp Perez was one of five representatives who supported the End the Border Catastrophe Act, which would have also reimplemented the “Remain in Mexico” policy and restarted construction of a wall along the Southern Border, among other immigration restrictions.

In mid-February, Gluesenkamp Perez joined a bipartisan group of seven representatives in introducing the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act, which tied foreign aid to immigration legislation.

The proposal would have reimplemented a “remain in Mexico” policy for one year and required the secretary of homeland security to “suspend the entry of inadmissible aliens at a U.S. land or maritime border” if necessary for operational control.

“Border security must be the top national security priority for President Biden,” the lawmakers said last week. “The president needs to do all he can to restore operational control of our Southern border, and stop drug cartels from trafficking fentanyl into communities across America.”