On May 11, Joe Biden is set to preside over the end of Title 42, a pandemic-era rule allowing executives to cite public health as grounds for stopping migrants at the border.
However, Biden has vowed to veto a House bill. If he follows through, he would be making the second veto of his entire career.
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The 213-page bill opens by calling on Biden’s Cabinet to start resume construction on border wall immediately, within seven days of the act becoming law. Later, it calls on the State Department to broker deals with Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras in order to build infrastructure to accommodate migration in those countries.
It was introduced by Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican. “We have to in the House, get the votes to pass a serious border security bill to make sure that this issue doesn’t just go away,” Diaz-Balart has said, according to the Associcated Press.
GOP lawmkers aim to vote on their Secure the Border Act on Thursday — the same day the emergency expulsion powers expire. Officials have already seen an increase of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and are bracing for more.
However, Biden doesn’t want to hear it. He’s vowing to issue the second veto of his entire career, with the first veto being his effort to protect ESG investing.
The Biden administration regularly argues that Congress needs to act significantly on the border in order to fix major problems that have led to record numbers of people illegally crossing. But this isn’t the way to do it, in the view of the White House.
“While we welcome Congress’ engagement on meaningful steps to address immigration and the challenges at the border, this bill would make things worse, not better,” says a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget. “Because this bill does very little to actually increase border security while doing a great deal to trample on the nation’s core values and international obligations, it should be rejected.”
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By vowing to veto the bill, Biden is jumping several steps ahead.
The bill looks likely to stall in the Democrat-controlled Senate. In that case, it would fail to reach Biden’s desk at all.
In the absence of legislation, the Biden administration has promised to send 1,500 active-duty troops to the border in order to manage the flow.
“Joe Biden sent a message that America’s border is open, and millions of people answered that call and started coming across our border illegally,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said at a news conference, adding, “We’re going to show the president how to solve the problem.”
Critics have argued that the bill would cut funding for a program allowing U.S. officials to accept — or quickly turn away — some migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. In other words, they worry that the bill would create delay.
The statement from the management and budget office said the Republican bill stands to “cut off nearly all access to humanitarian protections in ways that are inconsistent with our nation’s values and international obligations.” It would also cut necessary funding.
Meanwhile, the Senate has crafted its own border bill, unrelated to the one in the House.
Sens. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, and Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent, have proposed legislation that would give federal officials the power to quickly expel migrants for another two years. The pair are also working on a Senate proposal that would expand legal immigration while increasing border security.
Some House Republicans hope their bill could offer a start to negotiations with the Senate. Other senators simply want to restate Title 42.
In any case, the clock is ticking before the expiration date on Thursday.
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“We’ve been preparing for quite some time and we are ready. What we are expecting is indeed a surge. And what we are doing is planning for different levels of a surge,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last week during a visit to southern Texas. But he also stressed that the situation at the border is “extremely challenging.”
In the Texas border city of El Paso, about 2,200 migrants are currently camped or living on the streets a few blocks from major ports of entry that connect El Paso with the Mexican city of Juárez. The city is prepared to open up shelters next week if needed at two vacant school buildings and a civic center.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser estimated that roughly 10,000 to 12,000 migrants are in Juárez waiting to cross, as local officials prepare for the “unknown” ahead of the expiration date on May 11, this Thursday.
The Associated Press and The Horn editorial team contributed to this article.