GOP Sens. John Barrasso, John Cornyn, Ted Cruz and Pete Ricketts railed against the Biden administration’s border policies as migrants continue to enter the U.S. illegally.
“We have just returned from our southern border, and it is painfully clear that with Joe Biden’s open border policy, our country is really at an increased threat for a terrorist attack,” said Barrasso, the Senate Republican Conference chairman, during a press conference Tuesday.
Border Patrol agents seized immigrants carrying with them explosive devices “tailored for terrorism,” he said.
Following the border trip last Thursday and Friday, Ricketts added that the country is “opening ourselves up for a terrorist attack.”
Cruz, who has led several groups of lawmakers to southwest Texas, said Border Patrol agents are “frustrated” because “they risk their lives catching dangerous people, and they turn around and their political superiors just let them go.”
“And the next day, they go back and catch the same people all over again,” he said.
Minors are often accompanied by older men, and it is unclear whether they are actually related to the child, Cruz said.
“We know under the Trump administration when they DNA tested grown men with children about 30% of them were not related to the kids. That’s because you get preferential treatment if you arrive as a family unit,” Cruz said.
Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas confirmed there were more than 600,000 known gotaways at the border in fiscal year 2023 during a hearing in the Senate Homeland Committee Tuesday morning.
The Biden administration recently called on Congress to provide an additional $14 billion in funding for border operations, including for processing, support for states and communities into which migrants have been released, and additional agents.
The White House says the money includes funding for transportation, including removal flights and resources for alternatives to detention. It also includes money for “non-custodial housing options” for those in expedited removal, including facilities with housing, legal services and medical care.
However, Republican lawmakers contend Biden’s request will only speed up asylum processing without fixing the problem of flowing migrants by restoring Title 42, a COVID-19-era provision that allowed for faster expulsion of illegal entrants.
“What the Border Patrol tells us… is there’s no consequences associated with illegal entry in the United States,” Cornyn said. “And these criminal organizations that smuggle people and drugs are smart. They know how to exploit our system.”
Barrasso said the Biden administration’s goal with the supplemental funding is to provide “money to make people come in easier.”
Border Patrol released over 900,000 illegal immigrants into the interior of the United States in fiscal year 2023, including more than 150,000 in September alone, according to data on the Customs and Border Protection website.
The figure does not include any ICE releases or migrants encountered at ports of entry. Those released were primarily given a NTA/OR (notice to appear on own recognizance), meaning they were released into the U.S. with instructions to appear in court, often at a date years in the future. A minority were released under humanitarian parole between October 2022 and January 2023.
As Congress gears up to negotiate a supplemental funding package, GOP lawmakers — including Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — are urging for a “number of changes” that ensure tighter border security.
“It’s pretty clear that the supplemental that was set up is just a starting place,” McConnell told reporters following the leadership conference’s weekly luncheon last week. “We’re going to go over it with a fine tooth comb, as you can see is a lot of passion among our members without having a credible border security provision in there, and we’re going to make other changes as well.”
Fox News’ Adam Shaw and Bill Melugin contributed to this report.