Senator Lankford Responds To Criticism On Bipartisan Border Reform Deal

Oklahoma’s senior Senator is hopeful the release of the actual bill text, possibly this week, will end some of the fearmongering and spreading of disinformation that has hounded him in recent weeks.

Monday, January 29th 2024, 8:39 pm



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The Oklahoma Republican Party on Monday disavowed what appeared to be a harsh condemnation of Senator James Lankford for his efforts to negotiate a bipartisan border reform agreement with Democrats. The action comes as Republicans nationwide are taking a critical look at the deal that Lankford says is on the verge of completion.

Oklahoma’s senior Senator is hopeful the release of the actual bill text, possibly this week, will end some of the fearmongering and spreading of disinformation that has hounded him in recent weeks.

"To be very clear, I’m being accused of promoting amnesty and everything else,” Lankford said Monday morning during a live appearance on News 9. “There’s no amnesty in this bill at all, this bill focuses on border security."

Lankford says it’s frustrating to him that political considerations seem to have become more important to some people than actually addressing the problems at the border, which he says are truly a threat to national security.

“For me, the focus is that we have a responsibility constitutionally to protect our nation, we have a responsibility to protect our family,” Lankford said, “and I work for the people of Oklahoma that have said to me over and over again, for the last three years, ‘Do what it takes to be able to secure the border.’ And now literally when we get to the edge of doing it, they’re like, ‘Just kidding, don’t do that.’”

Over the weekend, a conservative faction of the Oklahoma Republican Party (OKGOP) voted to censure Lankford for working with Democrats on border reform. An emailed statement from OKGOP Monday, however, declared: “The meeting held by certain Republicans on January 27th was an illegitimate meeting…None of the actions done at the meeting are the official position of the OKGOP.”

Lankford didn’t speak directly to the state party’s censure/non-censure but said many rank-and-file Republicans in Oklahoma have expressed support for what he’s doing.

“I’ve had firefighters, I’ve had police officers reach out to me,” Lankford said, “I’ve had all kinds of different groups say, ‘Keep going; we need to be able to secure our nation.’”

Lankford says that's what the legislation will do by changing asylum standards, speeding up the hearing process, doubling deportation flights, expediting work permits, and allowing the president to shut down the border between ports of entry when illegal crossings hit a high level.

President Biden has indicated he'd sign the bill if it makes it to his desk, but his likely opponent in November, Donald Trump, is trying to make sure that doesn’t happen.

"I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill," said Trump at a rally Saturday, arguing, despite having yet to see the text, that the legislation would open the border. Lankford vehemently denies such claims. 

Still, the former President’s opposition could carry great weight, especially in the U.S. House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has already said that a compromise border bill from the Senate would be ‘dead on arrival.’ He and other Republicans don't want to give Biden a win in the run-up to the election.

Lankford says the opposition is unfortunate and that Trump’s team has even said the authorities contained in the legislation are things he asked for when he was in power. 

“And so, quietly, there are a group of folks saying, ‘We really want to have that,’ but the other side is saying, politically, this is the wrong time to do it,” explained Lankford. “There’s not a wrong time to be able to do the right thing — that’s what my mom always told me.”

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