Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation continue to call out the Biden administration for what they see as a complete failure to address the near-record number of people attempting to illegally enter the country from Mexico.
Figures released this week by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol show nearly 1.7 million migrants were detained along the U.S.-Mexico border during the 2021 fiscal year — 1.3 million since President Biden took office — the most such encounters since 1986.
At a Senate Finance Committee hearing this week, Senator James Lankford questioned the administration’s nominee for Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection about the “dire situation at the southern border.”
“The big issues is: What are you going to do? What’s the plan?” Sen. Lankford asked. “[M]ysteriously starting in February all the way to the present, the numbers have skyrocketed. We have triple the number of people each month that are crossing the border illegally now than what we had October, November, December, and January.”
Lankford and others in the delegation blame the increased numbers on the president’s decisions to halt construction on the border wall, end the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and reverse certain asylum restrictions, among other things. They believe, taken as a whole, these moves sent a message to those thinking about coming to the U.S. illegally that the border was open.
"We have hundreds of thousands of people now that have crossed over the border that they’ve literally said, 'Come into the country, we don’t even know where you’re going, [but] when you get to a spot just turn yourself in at that spot.' No administrations ever done that," said Lankford in a recent interview. "This incentivizes more people to be able to come."
Just as Democrats tried to use President Trump's border 'crisis' -- when families were being separated -- for political gain, Republicans are doing the same now, hammering the Biden White House relentlessly over policies that they say are directly responsible for the historically large number of arrests border agents are having to make.
"Every day there are a thousand individuals crossing into the United States because we don't have a secure border," said Rep. Stephanie Bice in a video she posted during a recent trip to Del Rio, Texas.
Bice is the latest member of the delegation to visit the U.S.-Mexico border and joins the chorus of critics who say Biden made a huge mistake in reversing Trump's border security measures and that his administration is compounding that by failing to enforce the laws on the books.
"There are lots of areas where they are just dropping the ball at DHS," said Lankford. "They’ve got to be able to enforce the law, that is their job."
Ultimately, it’s up to Congress to fix what most agree is a broken immigration system, and no Congress — Republican, Democratic or divided — has passed meaningful immigration reform in almost four decades.