State of the Union 2023: Biden reiterates call for amnesty for illegal immigrants, GOP reps shout ‘secure the border’
President Biden used his State of the Union address on Tuesday to double down on calls for Congress to pass a massive amnesty for illegal immigrants, while touting a recent drop in the number of migrants at the southern border by compared to historic highs seen under his administration — and was met with cries of “securing the border” by some Republicans.
“Let’s also get together on immigration and become a bipartisan issue again,” he said.
The Biden administration has been rocked by a migrant crisis on the southern border that is now in its third year, with a record 2.3 million migrant encounters and nearly 600,000 “getaways” over the past fiscal year 2022. In December, there were a record 251,000 migrant encounters.
Republicans have beaten the administration over the crisis, blaming the administration’s rollback of Trump-era border security policies and domestic enforcement. But the administration blamed a hemispheric-wide crisis and criticized Republicans for not accepting funding and reform measures proposed by the administration.
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On Tuesday, Biden touted increased Border Patrol staff and also increased fentanyl seizures at the border, which officials say shows apprehension is improving.
“We now have a record number of personnel working to secure the border, arresting 8,000 smugglers and seizing over 23,000 pounds of fentanyl over the past few months,” he said.
He also noted border measures introduced last month, which extended a humanitarian parole program for Venezuelans to Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans and would clear 30,000 people in a month if they did not cross illegally, already had a sponsor in the United States and met other conditions.
This was accompanied by an expansion of Title 42 expulsions to include these nationalities.
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Sources tell Fox News that there were about 150,000 encounters in January, which would mark the lowest number since February 2021. Biden cited additional statistics showing a drop in encounters since the measures were announced.
“We launched a new border plan last month, illegal migration from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela has decreased by 97%.”
But Biden reiterated previous calls for Congress to pass a sweeping immigration reform bill. The bill was unveiled on Biden’s first day in office in 2021. At the heart of the bill is an eight-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the United States by January 1, 2021 – as well as the immediate green card eligibility for farm workers, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and some who came to the United States as minors, whom activists call “dreamers.”
The bill would also create refugee processing centers in Central America, increase the number of immigration judges, and open up a number of additional avenues for legal immigration, including the “recovery” of unused visas from years previous ones, eliminating visa backlogs and increasing diversity. lottery visa program. The legislation would also provide additional funding for technology at the border and expand anti-smuggling efforts in Central America.
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Republicans balked at the legislation because of the inclusion of an amnesty for illegal immigrants, and it showed no sign of picking up Republican support — but the administration continued to push the bill.
Biden reiterated those calls on Tuesday, though he said he would agree to a smaller plan — but one that would still include at least a partial amnesty and border funding.
“America’s border issues won’t be solved until Congress acts. If we don’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, let’s at least pass my plan to provide the necessary equipment and officers. to secure the border. And a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, agricultural workers and essential workers,” he said.
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In response to the remarks, some Republicans were heard shouting “secure the border”. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy appeared to silence the rowdy members.
Later in the speech, Biden highlighted the fentanyl crisis that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. Officials said fentanyl is produced in Mexico using precursors from China and then transported to the United States across the land border.
“Fentanyl kills over 70,000 Americans a year. Let’s launch a major wave to stop the production, sale and trafficking of fentanyl, with more drug detection machines to inspect shipment and stop pills and powder at the border,” Biden said, before calling for cooperation with couriers and increased penalties for trafficking.
The mention of fentanyl has led to renewed calls from some Republicans to “secure the border.”
“You get it,” Biden said.
Fox News’ Bill Melugin contributed to this report.