The Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2) Passes the House

Highlights of the floor debate

By George Fishman on May 11, 2023

9/14/2023 UPDATE: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Secure the Border Act of 2023 in the Senate, a companion bill to the House passed Secure the Border Act (H.R. 2).

Co-sponsors: Leader Mitch McConnell (R- Ky.), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Senator JD Vance (R-Ohio), Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Senator Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.), Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Senator Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Senator John Kennedy (R-La.), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Senator Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

I have analyzed many of the provisions of H.R. 2, the “Secure the Border Act of 2023”, which would provide the Department of Homeland Security with powerful tools to clean up the Biden administration’s mess at the border – and even force the administration to clean up its own mess. 

But I want to focus on today’s extraordinary House floor debate on the bill, which just passed by a vote of 219-213. (You can watch Thursday’s debate on the bill here, starting at about 18:00.) I have to admit that it is a bit disorienting for me to have watched it on C-SPAN and not from the House chamber itself, where I was privileged to witness all the great House immigration debates from 1996 to 2018.

Today’s debate was extraordinary for the impassioned and spellbinding speeches of many of the House Judiciary Committee’s Republican members, who rose to speak truth to those in power in the Executive Branch. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration Integrity, Security, and Enforcement, and co-author of the Judiciary Committee provisions contained within H.R. 2, said:

On inauguration day, our border was secure. The Trump policies had slowed illegal immigration to a trickle. But that afternoon, Joe Biden reversed these policies and in the last 27 months, the Democrats have deliberately admitted into our country more than 2.1 million illegal aliens. . . . This was only a prelude to the mass invasion now unfolding before our eyes. The Border Patrol union warned us yesterday “field reports from agents across the southern border verify the enormity of this tidal wave of illegal aliens coming now. Huge groups are overwhelming stations and it is completely out of control. Massive releases beginning and it’s going to get much worse.”

Now for Americans, this means classrooms packed with non-English speaking students, hospitals flooded with illegals demanding uncompensated care, violent criminal cartels and gangs introduced into our communities, fentanyl killing an average of 300 Americans every day, suppressed wages for working Americans, and the collapse of the social safety net that was supposed to take care of Americans in need. For the millions of illegal migrants, it means exposure to hazardous conditions that have claimed 2,000 lives that we know of. [M]any arrive sick, traumatized, starved, brutalized, raped, and deeply in debt to the cartels.

These are not asylum seekers. . . . Asylum is not an open invitation to bum rush our borders. But the Democrats have made it precisely that. You make a fraudulent asylum claim, you are guaranteed to receive immediate admission into our country, you get cash, a range of free goods and services, indefinite residency and indefinite work authorization. And when your claim is ultimately rejected by a clogged court system years in the future, you’ll not be deported and you only need to wait till the next amnesty. This makes a mockery of legitimate asylum, the sovereignty of our nation, and the rule of law. . . . [T]his administration sends . . . [unaccompanied alien] children to poorly vetted so-called sponsors in this country with little concern or follow-up to the conditions into which we have abandoned them. Many become indentured servants, slaves to the cartels . . . under horrific conditions.

Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance and co-author of the Judiciary Committee provisions, stated:

I have been listening to my colleagues across the aisle and all of the just gaslighting. I’m reminded of the secondary output put out by the dairy cows in rural Arizona. . . . Title 42 is going away tonight. The cartels control our border. . . . You know what CBP officials told local officials in Arizona about Title 42, and I’m quoting here, “You’re screwed.” . . . You know what expedited removal means? It means community release. Why is that? Because of the weak asylum enforcement laws we have today.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) stated:

Here’s the kicker . . . It’s all been done intentionally. Day one, January 20, 2021, Joe Biden said no more wall, no more Remain in Mexico, you get to the border, you get released into the country. Well, shazam!, everyone’s gonna come. And that’s exactly what’s happened. They’re all coming. And tonight it gets worse. And it was done in premeditated fashion, deliberate fashion, purposeful, it was all done intentionally . . . . I cannot figure out why they would do this. And who seized on this, the cartels. . . . [H.R. 2 is] the strongest immigration enforcement legislation in modern times . . . .

Immigration Subcommittee Member Chip Roy (R-Texas) stated:

We’re here today because of the abject failure of the administration to do its fundamental duty to protect the United States. We have a wide-open border empowering cartels, empowering China, to the detriment of . . . American citizens and the migrants coming here, supposedly in the name of compassion. But that is in the false name of compassion. Dead migrants along the Rio Grande and farms alongside Texas. 53 dying in a tractor-trailer last summer in San Antonio. . . . Border Patrol agents right now apprehended over 10,000 migrants Monday and 11,000 Tuesday. . . . El Paso ran out of shelter. El Paso declared an emergency. Brownsville declared an emergency. Laredo declared an emergency. . . . Now the New York City mayor, a sanctuary city, criticizing [Texas’] busing [of migrants to NYC] is busing migrants . . . out to the suburbs.”

Committee Member Tom Tiffany (R-Wisc.) stated:

For the last two years, this administration has systematically and deliberately erased our border. They have unleashed a tidal wave of illegal aliens and deadly drugs into our communities. They have enriched the cartels and human traffickers. They have disrespected the millions of legal immigrants who followed our laws and came here the right way. They have pushed our local hospitals and schools to the breaking point and forced you, the American people, to pick up the tab. [H]e has converted this narrow avenue [of parole] into an open borders superhighway, indiscriminately admitting more than one million illegal immigrants over just the last two years. This is not just wrong, it is reckless. It’s time to restore the rule of law and it’s time to restrain the dangerous impulses of this administration.

Committee Member Lance Gooden (R-Texas) stated:

This is the strongest border security bill that has come to the floor in decades. . . . The Biden administration has created a humanitarian and security crisis unlike anything we have ever seen. They’ve outright refused to enforce the law, prioritizing the livelihoods of illegal aliens over American citizens. Drug cartels are running rampant. NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] are handing out debit cards and bus tickets to migrants paid for with our taxpayer dollars. And human traffickers are targeting migrant children. It is heartless to do nothing about that and let the status quo continue. But in fact, it gets worse. Tonight at midnight when Title 42 lifts . . . we will see yet another migrant surge to add to the historic numbers this administration has already amassed.

Quite extraordinary speeches. I wish I possessed the skill to write them. I also wish that the state of our borders, and consequently the state of our nation, did not demand such remarkable utterances.

The debate was equally extraordinary for the speech of Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). It was earth-shaking in itself that he was the one to introduce H.R. 2. For Diaz-Balart “was the public face of the House GOP push” for amnesty in 2014, voted against the Goodlatte bill in 2018 and went so far as to sign a discharge petition that year seeking to force a floor vote on a DREAM Act amnesty over the objections of Leadership. But his impassioned speech today for his bill shook the Milky Way galaxy itself. Mr. Diaz-Balart stated:

[C]learly allowing [Title] 42 to end with no plans to secure our borders is not only negligent but it severely jeopardizes the national security interests of our country. But . . . the cataclysm facing our border is not just due to the end of Title 42 . . . but also to this administration’s complete . . . abdication to even do the bare minimum to secure the border . . . . [I]ts negligence and incompetence [will] have fatal consequences. The administration has relinquished control to the narco-terrorists . . . . The Biden administration’s policies . . . have deadly consequences for Americans and for immigrants alike. . . . It’s immoral . . . that the Biden administration refuses . . . to take action to end human trafficking, stop the deadly influx of drug in the United States, confront the cartels, protect . . . those minors who are being trafficked . . . and enhance our outdated asylum process. . . . [T]his House has a solution to help take back control of our border. H.R. 2 . . .which I’m so proud to have sponsored . . , will restore order to the border. If you’re concerned about our national security or the safety of our fellow Americans and immigrants . . . or the rule of law, I . . . strongly urge you to vote for this great bill . . . .

It appears as if the current border mega-crisis, which is the all-too-predictable result of the Biden-Mayorkas malpractice (bordering on malfeasance) at the border, has unified House Republicans on the necessity for immigration enforcement to a previously unimaginable degree.

The Democrats, not so much. Not one came to the bill’s defense. In fact, they christened it the “Child Deportation Act” and called it un-Christian. And those were among the nicer things they had to say. At least Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) managed to refrain from labeling the bill the “Housekeeper Deportation Act”.

Oh, how I long for the days of bipartisan support for the rule of law, as when a majority of House Democrats voted for the bill that was later to be enacted as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act in 1996. Of course, that was 27 years ago, before the Blue Dog Democrats suffered the largest mass extinction since that of the dinosaurs, the result not of an asteroid but of the equally cataclysmic leftward lurch of Democrat base voters.