GOP senators push border to forefront; Cornyn warns of human 'tsunami' if Biden lifts Title 42

"A million people will illegally cross the border within six weeks at the moment that they drop Title 42," Lankford says

Updated: March 31, 2022 - 2:45am

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Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn on Wednesday warned of a human "tsunami" at the southern U.S. border if the Biden administration lifts Title 42 – signaling the apparent start of a GOP effort to again make border security a top election issue. 

"If Title 42 expires, as the border patrol has told me, they expect a tsunami of humanity to come across border and the border patrol has said they will lose control entirely," Cornyn said at a news conference on Capitol Hill, where he was just one of numerous Senate Republicans forecasting such dire warnings. 

Border Patrol reported encounters of 1.6 million migrants at the border in fiscal 2021.

The figure does not count the migrants who went undetected and successful entered the country, which some lawmakers refer to as "got aways." According to a press report from October 2021, the Biden administration had released approximately 160,000 migrants into the U.S. since March.

Title 42 was enacted in the 1940s and enforced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent certain categories of asylum seekers arriving at the border from entering the country and spreading the virus. Ending the policy amid the annual spring migration indeed has the potential to overwhelm border security, so much so that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is trying to add manpower to its southwest sector. 

Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Lankford said the Biden administration could end Title 42 enforcement within hours or days at this point.

"This DHS in the Biden administration, its own numbers estimate, a million people will illegally cross the border within six weeks at the moment that they drop Title 42," he said. "They're aware of what they're about to release. They've had a year to be able to plan for it and they've chosen not to."

Even some Senate Democrats have in recent days raised concerns about ending the policy without an exit strategy, including Arizona Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. 

Lankford also vowed to object to "all" of the Department of Homeland Security nominations that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brings to the chamber floor until the agency "provides us a plan that will end the chaos" at the border with Mexico.

Biden is under pressure to end Title 42 enforcement because pandemic numbers have declined and his own Democratic Party, particularly members of its progressive wing, consider it a Trump-era, anti-immigration policy. 

Meanwhile, arguing that Democrats are weak on border security has long been a winning issue for Republicans.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz said that every city in America is a border city and restated his point that the country's immigration problems go far beyond the southern border. 

"When the illegal immigrants come over, they're wearing bracelets, the bracelets correspond with the money they had paid and the additional money they owe to the cartels," he said. "It costs between $3,000 and $8,000 to cross illegally. You cannot cross without going through the cartels. If you try to cross on your own, the cartels will kill you."

He continued: "Often when they cross the cartels, they'll put them in a stash house and extort thousands more money, and you have teenage boys that the cartels will go and locate in cities all over the country. Actually, the Biden administration sends them to cities all over the country. And then those teenage boys owe thousands of dollars to the cartels and they work for the cartels in your city."

Cruz, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate and possible 2024 contender, also argued that Democrats have clearly demonstrated that they "support illegal immigration."

He pointed to Senate Democrats rejecting his legislation to ensure "violent felons who repeatedly cross illegally" into the U.S. face a "mandatory minimum" prison sentence.

"They view the 2 million illegal immigrants who came last year as future Democratic voters," he said. 

The ACLU has advocated for ending Title 42, arguing that it stops certain migrants from seeking refuge at the U.S. border.

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