White House issues border law veto threat as pandemic deportation tool expires

WASHINGTON — The White House is threatening to veto a top-priority House Republican bill to crack down on illegal immigration at the Mexican border as the government’s use of a pandemic-era tool to deport most migrants comes to an end.

“This legislation would make things worse, not better,” President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget wrote Monday, as the GOP-led House of Representatives prepares to pass the Secure the Border Act of 2023 later this year month to say goodbye. “Because this bill does very little to actually increase border security while doing much to trample on the nation’s core values ​​and international obligations, it should be rejected.”

The veto threat comes as Biden’s use of Title 42, a public health law, to deport migrants without an asylum hearing is due to end Thursday by court order.

This policy began under former President Donald Trump, who made his opposition to illegal immigration a cornerstone of his 2016 campaign, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as justification. Biden continued the policy during his first two years in office, even as he called for legislation that would increase the number of immigrants allowed into the country and expand infrastructure for processing asylum applications.

Migrants camp on the banks of the Rio Grande while waiting to be processed by Texas border police after crossing from Ciudad Juarez May 8.
Migrants camp on the banks of the Rio Grande while waiting to be processed by Texas border police after crossing from Ciudad Juarez May 8.

HERIKA MARTINEZ via Getty Images

Many Republicans have accused Biden of encouraging migrants to enter the country illegally and are demanding he resume construction of a barrier along the southern border, which was underway under Trump.

The bill by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, would require the resumption of border wall construction that Biden suspended when he took office, increase the number of border patrol agents, and make it harder for migrants to qualify for asylum, among other numerous provisions .

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at her daily briefing Monday that Biden remains willing to work with Republicans on a comprehensive immigration package, but not one like the bill the House is trying to pass. “Rather than providing the resources needed for more border security technology and asylum officials and judges, it would again be wasting taxpayers’ money on an ineffective wall — an ineffective wall that can’t even withstand high winds, let alone sophisticated criminal smuggling networks,” she said.

Monday’s threat of a veto is unlikely to ever be necessary, as the House Republican proposal has little chance of getting through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Trump promised during his 2016 campaign to build a wall along the entire southern border and make Mexico pay for it. But he never asked Mexico to pay, nor could he get Congress to pay, even when both houses were controlled by Republicans.

He eventually diverted billions of dollars from housing and other programs for military personnel to pay for the construction of 30-foot steel fences. A total of 405 miles of the existing barrier were replaced with the new fence, but only 47 miles represent a new barrier where none previously existed.

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