For months, Republicans in Congress have rightfully been sounding the alarm: The world is on fire, and the fire has reached our doorsteps.
From Israel’s multi-front war and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to China’s provocations against Taiwan and especially the migrant crisis at our southern border, America needs to lead on both domestic and global emergencies.
Put simply, the situation at our southern border is a disaster. There have been more than 8.8 million illegal encounters there since President Joe Biden’s term began. Each month since the start of this fiscal year, we have seen historic records of illegal crossings. In December, more than 12,000 crossed in a single day.
Americans are demanding action to control the chaos, and lawmakers have an obligation to act.
Last Sunday, hope arrived in the form of a comprehensive national security bill crafted through months of bipartisan negotiation. In addition to addressing the current migrant crisis, it provided much needed assistance for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
This bill was a negotiated product, which by definition means neither side got all it wanted, but for the first time in decades it would have taken steps to strengthen our immigration laws.
The Border Act would have fundamentally shifted our approach to illegal immigrants from “catch and release” to “detain and deport” by requiring a higher standard for asylum and an expedited process for removal. It closed loopholes that incentivize migration and imposed immediate consequences for those who choose to ignore our laws and illegally cross into our country.
The Border Act also increased detention capacity and provided new funding to hire Border Patrol agents.
The Border Patrol Union endorsed the bill, commenting that it would “codify into law authorities that U.S. Border Patrol agents never had in the past,” and urging its “quick passage.”
Critics claimed the bill didn’t go far enough. Fair enough — but last week, they had the chance to debate it on the Senate floor, rather than in press conferences.
I voted to advance that debate, to begin the process of figuring out a path forward on our immigration policies and make real progress on our southern border.
But in a stunning act of political whiplash, many who rightly insisted that border security must be included as part of the security supplemental refused to even bring the bill to the floor — voting against its consideration, even though they could have instead blocked its passage if amendments to improve it did not go far enough.
While the politics may have shifted, the problem has not gone away. The crisis at the border is real and not timed for political messaging. It is deeply unfortunate that the status quo, which now averages more than 10,000 crossings a day, will likely remain in place for the rest of an election year and potentially well beyond.
While the Senate abjectly failed to address our own border last week, we must not follow up by abandoning Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The Border Act text has been removed, and we have voted to proceed to consideration of the National Security Act.
We have an obligation to support our allies, and keep our promises, particularly in a time of war. This is especially true as Ukrainians continue to face their darkest hours, running severely low on ammunition required to fight Putin’s invasion of their country.
The National Security Act also ensures that we stand with Israel by providing security assistance to fight Hamas and other regional terrorist groups. It provides for our partners in the Indo-Pacific, namely Taiwan, who are fending off growing Chinese aggression. And it combats the fentanyl crisis by targeting the illicit supply chain that is allowing cartels to funnel historic amounts of drugs across our borders.
Much of the assistance for our allies will help replenish our weapons stocks and production capacity to restore U.S. military readiness.
Right now, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and drug cartels are all watching us closely, and hoping we fail. Global order and the safety of our allies are dependent on strong American leadership, and failure to meet this moment only demonstrates to dictators that there is no consequence for attacking democracies.
Our security, the fate of our allies and human lives are on the line. Congress has not met the moment, but we can salvage part of it by passing the National Security Act as soon as possible.
Lisa Murkowski represents Alaska in the United States Senate. She is a Republican.
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