Havre Daily News: Tester talks southern border deal in press call

by Patrick Johnston

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., held a statewide press call Monday where he discussed ongoing efforts by Congress to make a deal on an immigration bill that he said will help solve the immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border.

Tester said the deal is imperfect but it does include common-sense provisions that will improve the situation, contrary to the misinformation that the deal’s opponents have been pushing.

The bill would, among other things, give the president wide-reaching authority to close the border should the system be overwhelmed and seeks to speed up the asylum process by giving asylum officers greater freedom to close out claims rather than having them go through immigration court, which Tester said is a good thing.

He said that while many asylum seekers have legitimate problems in their countries of origin, most don’t and will be turned away.

He said most people going to the immigration courts would also likely be turned away.

Tester said the U.S. immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed, and the deal being worked on by a bi-partisan group of legislators is a “common-sense solution,” that will address the crisis, increase national security and help prevent dangerous drugs like fentanyl to make their way into the U.S.

The deal also includes funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as for humanitarian aid in Gaza and for the U.S. and its allies’ security operations in the Indo-Pacific region, which Tester said is also vital to national security.

But The Associated Press reports that two people familiar with a closed-door meeting said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky reversed his position on the bill – which he helped negotiate – and recommended Republican senators vote against it.

AP reports that House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., said it is “dead on arrival” if it goes to the House.

Tester said the bill is being combated by Washington politicians primarily concerned with political theater and having a wedge issue going into this year’s election.

“We have an election every two years, if we used that as an excuse, we’d never get anything done,” he said.

He said the people who are the loudest about securing the border are engaging in a blatant disinformation campaign about the bill.

A provision in the package would grant the secretary of Homeland Security authority to prohibit entry for most individuals if an average of more than 4,000 people per day try to enter the country unlawfully over the course of a week.

If the number reaches 5,000 or if 8,500 try to enter unlawfully in a single day, use of the authority would be mandatory under the current deal.

This has caused some to claim that the deal would allow 5,000 immigrants into the U.S. a day, which Tester said is completely false.