Each day, the brave men and women who serve as our first line of defense are challenged by thousands of inadmissible migrants who arrive at our border. In the last two years alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested 266,000 undocumented immigrants with criminal records. Immigration courts are facing a backlog of over 800,000 open cases. To make matters worse, drugs are flowing across our borders, contributing to our nation’s drug epidemic and taking far too many American lives. Each week, 300 Americans die from heroin overdoses, 90 percent of which comes across our southern border by legal and illegal points of entry.
Recognizing the crisis at hand, President Trump has asked for funds to address the enormous challenges we face. We cannot keep our communities and our country safe without adequate funding for border security. It means improving existing facilities by deploying new technology, adding additional law enforcement and judicial personnel, and implementing new security measures along our border. This also means properly providing funds for physical barriers where Customs and Border Patrol say they will be effective. If we can successfully land rovers on Mars, we can equip our ports of entry and areas along the border with technology to stem the flow of heroin, fentanyl and other dangerous drugs that have hurt families in West Michigan and across the nation.
The president has requested $5.7 billion for construction of a steel barrier on the southern border, which would fund 234 miles of a new physical barrier. The president has also asked for $675 million to deter and detect narcotics, weapons and other materials that pose a threat to the United States; $563 million to hire 75 more immigration judges and staff to clear the backlog of pending immigration cases; $211 million to hire 750 additional Border Patrol agents; and $800 million to fund enhanced medical support, transportation, consumable supplies and additional temporary facilities necessary to ensure the well-being of those taken into custody.
Instead of working with Republican colleagues and the president to actually deal with this crisis, Democrats are refusing to negotiate in good faith to fully reopen the government and secure the border. Given their past votes and statements, it is clear that Democrats in Congress are doing this only for the purpose of political grandstanding.
Just last year, 111 House Democrats and 40 Senate Democrats voted for legislation that funded 82 miles of the same type of steel bollard wall that the president has proposed. This includes every federally elected Democrat who represented Michigan at the time. In 2009, Sen. Schumer infamously said, “Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple. Until the American people are convinced we will stop future flows of illegal immigration, we will make no progress.” This hypocrisy is truly mind-blowing.
An unfortunate outcome of this Democrat-forced shutdown is that many essential government workers are not currently being compensated for their work. Across West Michigan, these essential employees are still showing up and working for our common good. I believe strongly that the brave men and women of the United States Coast Guard deserve a paycheck. That is why I recently joined colleagues in introducing legislation that would ensure the military services — Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and reserves — will receive their pay and allowances in full and on time during any lapse in appropriations.
Additionally, I have sponsored a Constitutional Amendment that would prohibit members of Congress from receiving compensation for any period during which a government shutdown is in effect. If Democrats are serious about resolving this and future impasses, they would bring this proposed amendment to the floor immediately.
As bad as things look in Washington right now, it is my hope that common sense will prevail and Democrats will come to the negotiating table. We must find a solution that funds the government, while also providing the necessary resources to secure our border.
About the writer: U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, represents Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Ottawa County.