House Border Bill Blues

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

The paralysis in Washington is on full display once again, as efforts to pass what seems like a fairly reasonable response to the humanitarian crisis on the border are in jeopardy of being stymied by a coalition of the right and the left.

On the right, conservatives like Sen. Ted Cruz argue that the Republican House bill doesn’t go far enough — that it should also defund the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Cruz believes this directive was a magnet that essentially invited this crisis, thus any solution ought to address this catalyst. (It’s still technically possible that both things could pass separately; if the border bill (HR 5230) passes, then the House will vote on the second bill (HR 5272 from Rep. Blackburn).

Another conservative argument against passing this bill is that it’s a moot point — since Democrats will block it in the Senate. It may not surprise you that Democrats are also playing politics with this crisis. (I’m sure you’re shocked!)

But I say pragmatic politics and prudent policy needn’t be mutually exclusive. If Democrats want to stop a bill that would help solve this humanitarian crisis, that’s on them. House Republicans should do the right thing on the merits.

And based on what I can discern, the House bill is a reasonable response to a serious crisis which addresses the influx of illegal immigrants in a compassionate and humane way.

It’s important to note this bill wouldn’t remove the hearing process for refugees seeking asylum, but it would greatly expedite the process of determining whether or not someone is eligible. 

Unlike the current law, those seeking asylum would be required to remain in federal custody — and have a hearing within one week. They would also be given the option to forgo this process, and opt for immediate removal (an option not currently available to unaccompanied minors from Central America).

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than nothing — and — when considering the time sensitivity (both in terms of addressing this crisis rapidly, and doing so before Congress adjourns) — probably as good as it gets. (As Patton said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”)

Those who are opposing this seem to be intent on making the perfect the enemy of the good. As such, it’s very possible Congress will adjourn for recess without addressing this problem, only to return sometime in August for an emergency session when the money runs out.

The other options are that Congress would just stick around until they pass something. It’s hard to imagine any of these alternate scenarios would yield a better policy than the one currently on the table.

Matt K. Lewis