The Hill: Tester pushes Biden on border security in new letter

by Miranda Nazzaro

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) on Thursday called on President Biden to “use all of the remaining tools,” including executive action, to strengthen border security following the commander in chief’s Thursday trip to the southern border. 

“Congress and your Administration need to take action immediately to improve the situation before things deteriorate,” Tester wrote in a letter dated Feb. 29 to Biden. “I respectfully urge you to use all of the remaining tools at your disposal to strengthen border security where executive action is possible.” 

On Thursday, Biden visited Brownsville, Texas, to meet with Border Patrol agents. Biden has come under strong scrutiny from Republicans in recent months over his handling of the border, while divisions among lawmakers have stalled any legislation on the issue.

Speaking from Texas, Biden criticized congressional Republicans, who — largely under the influence of former President Trump — opposed the Senate’s bipartisan border security deal earlier this month. The proposed package came after months of negotiations between both sides of the aisle and included significant concessions from Democrats on border security. 

The deal also would have unlocked aid for Ukraine in its fight against Russia after some Senate GOP members demanded any foreign aid be tied with border security. Once unveiled, the deal fell apart amid GOP opposition and public criticism from Trump.  

Tester, in his letter to Biden, said the package “failed due to election year politics” and called the package the “strongest border security legislation” that’s been seen in Congress in recent years. 

“The fact that many of my Republican colleagues voted to kill this strong, bipartisan proposal simply because they wanted to score political points is beyond frustrating, but I won’t give up on getting something done,” Tester wrote. “While only Congress has the power to provide the critical funding needed to secure our border through manpower and technology and only Congress has the power to tighten our asylum laws, action is needed.”

Tester argued it is up to Biden to act and encouraged him to use his executive authority to the “maximum extent” until Congress can make progress on the issue. 

Biden did not announce any unliteral move to address the border situation while in Texas. 

The Hill reached out to the White House for comment. 

Trump also traveled Thursday to Eagle Pass, Texas, where he was joined by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and local law enforcement. The border town has been the subject of a large amount of coverage over the migrant influx and is often seen with long lines of migrants, buses and razor wire. 

Earlier this year, Eagle Pass was hoisted into the spotlight after Texas officials blocked Border Patrol out of parts of the town and took control of a riverfront park. The Texas National Guard stopped private citizens, city officials and Border Patrol officers from entering the park. 

Both Trump and Biden accused one another of being responsible for the situation of the southern border during their dueling trips Thursday.