House approves resolution denouncing Biden’s ‘open-border policies’

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The House on Wednesday approved a resolution condemning the Biden administration’s border and immigration policies, a move by GOP lawmakers to maintain pressure on the politically polarizing issue in the weeks ahead.

The legislation pins singular blame on President Biden’s “open-border policies” for conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, highlighting the stark partisanship behind immigration and border policy. It passed 225-187, with 14 Democrats voting in favor.

The vote is the latest example of Republicans running a full-court press on the matters of immigration and border security in the new year, which have proved to be salient issues among voters. It also allows them to message on a topic that has been a weak spot for the Biden administration.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) kicked off the year leading a trip to the border with more than 60 GOP lawmakers, and the House Homeland Security Committee is forging ahead with impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The panel is scheduled to hold the second of four planned hearings on the matter Thursday.

The vote also comes as House Republicans are at odds with Senate Republicans over immigration and border policy. A bipartisan group of senators has been negotiating a border security package for months, after Republicans tied the matter to aid for Ukraine, but House GOP lawmakers say they will not accept a compromise bill from the upper chamber.

On Wednesday, Johnson shut the door on “comprehensive immigration reform,” telling reporters, “I don’t think now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform, because we know how complicated that is.”

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.)

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) gives a statement to reporters following a meeting with Congressional leaders and President Biden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, January 17, 2024 to discuss Ukraine funding and border security in the next supplemental bill. (Greg Nash)

Senate negotiators continued talks on border and immigration policy tied to Ukraine aid, and President Biden hosted Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House and Senate minority leaders Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and select committee chairs to discuss the national security package.

The White House insisted the bipartisan meeting would center on Ukraine, rather than the border, though Johnson earlier Wednesday said he would remain laser focused on “what we’ve told the American people: border, border, border.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Johnson would not steer the conversation at the White House.

“[Johnson] is not the only congressperson in the room today. He’s not. He’s not the only person that’s going to be in the room,” Jean-Pierre said.

“There’ll be other congressional members, the president has been really clear, he wants to talk about Ukraine, the urgency of making sure we continue that assistance to Ukraine, what that means, not just for the broader world’s national security but also for us.”

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The chaotic three-ring circus of border policy, accentuated by the GOP push to impeach Mayorkas, drew criticism from 26 former Homeland Security officials, who characterized the impeachment push as a “grave mistake.”

In a letter to House Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (R-Tenn.) and top committee Democrat Rep. Bennie Thompson (Miss.), the bipartisan group of officials called for a pivot away from the impeachment fight and toward substantial talks.

“We advocate for legislative solutions, including adequate funding, to replace the outdated policies that currently characterize our immigration system. It is crucial that Congress prioritizes solutions that strengthen our borders, treat migrants with dignity, and reduce backlogs that delay decisions on asylum claims, legal immigration petitions, and other cases and applications,” they wrote.

Yet the resolution approved by the House on Wednesday focused more broadly on laying blame on Biden’s policies for current conditions, while extolling Trump-era border policies such as the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “remain in Mexico.”

According to the resolution, “the Biden administration refuses to use tools already at its disposal to end the border crisis,” a claim that’s at the center of partisan disagreement on how to address the border.

Democrats have been severely critical of Republicans for not quickly approving the White House’s supplemental budget request, which included aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, but also funding for 1,300 new Border Patrol agents and a host of other border enforcement upgrades.

Republicans have countered that failures at the border are not a funding issue, but a policy issue, a mantra repeated by former Trump Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting Director Tom Homan at Wednesday’s Oversight hearing.

The floor vote on the resolution came the day before the House Homeland Security Committee will hold its second hearing evaluating Mayorkas’s impeachment — a move that comes as Green said articles of impeachment have already been drafted.

Green invited Mayorkas to testify Thursday, but after a scheduling conflict the chair abandoned his plans to have Mayorkas publicly testify, instead demanding he submit written testimony.

The hearing will still include its original panel, hearing from a sheriff and parents who lost children to gang violence and fentanyl.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), a member of the committee, said the panel could review articles of impeachment as soon as Jan. 31.

Rebecca Beitsch contributed.

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