As ICE Considers Mass Release of Detainees Due to Republicans Blocking Bipartisan Border Security Bill, Tester Presses Congress to Pass it

Senator: “This serious problem was entirely preventable…Congress’ failure to pass this bill is already making our country less safe and only benefits the cartels and criminals taking advantage of our broken immigration system”

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today sent a letter pressing congressional leaders to pass bipartisan border security legislation in light of new reporting detailing that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is facing a dangerous budget shortfall that could result in the release of thousands of detainees.

According to a concerning new report today from the Washington Post, ICE “has drafted plans to release thousands of immigrants and slash its capacity to hold detainees after the failure of a Senate border bill that would have erased a $700 million budget shortfall.”

Writing to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, Tester stressed that this shortfall is entirely preventable if Congress passes the bipartisan border security bill: “There are now reports that because of the failure to pass the bill, ICE may be forced to release more migrants and slash its detention capabilities due to funding shortfalls. One reported proposal under consideration is the mass release of detainees. This serious problem was entirely preventable. The bipartisan border security bill included funding for law enforcement, including additional funding for ICE enforcement operations, removals, and detention beds and would have helped address this budget shortfall… Congress’ failure to pass this bill is already making our country less safe and only benefits the cartels and criminals taking advantage of our broken immigration system.”

Tester also emphasized that he hears from Montanans who are fed up with political games in Washington and want to see Congress act to secure the border: “As Members of Congress, it is our responsibility to do everything in our power to keep our country safe. Your public opposition to passing a bipartisan, effective border security bill for political gain makes America less safe. I am calling on you both to stop playing politics and pass this bill as soon as possible. What is happening at the southern border is unacceptable, plain and simple. Montanans from every corner of my state tell me they want a secure border and a solution to the fentanyl crisis. Congress had an opportunity to do both just last week. Unfortunately, both of you used your leadership positions to defeat this bipartisan proposal after months of negotiations between our Republican and Democratic colleagues. While those members that joined you in opposing the bill want to leave the border open for another year, Montanans are fed up and expect their representatives to take action now.”

Tester noted in his letter that the bipartisan border security bill was endorsed by the National Board Patrol Council, which represents approximately 18,000 Border Patrol agents and personnel charged with keeping our border safe, and received strong praise from the Director of Customs and Border Protection.

Earlier this month Tester voted to secure the southern border – but politicians in Congress blocked the bipartisan border security legislation. Here’s what Republican leaders and law enforcement are saying about the bill:

  • The National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), which represents approximately 18,000 Border Patrol agents and personnel charged with enforcing our country’s border security policies, stated in part: “The Border Act of 2024 will codify into law authorities that U.S. Border Patrol agents never had in the past. This will allow us to remove single adults expeditiously and without a lengthy judicial review, which historically has required the release of these individuals into the interior of the U.S. This alone will drop illegal border crossings nationwide and will allow a great many of our agents to get back to detecting and apprehending those who want to cross our borders illegally and evade apprehension. While not perfect, the Border Act of 2024 is a step in the right direction and is far better than the status quo, which is why the National Border Patrol Council endorses the bill and hopes for a quick passage.”
  • The Director of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) stated in part: “This proposed legislation would provide the strongest set of tools we have had in decades to effectively manage migration and enhance our nation’s border security.”
  • Conservative Senator James Lankford (R-OK) who helped negotiate the proposal stated that the bill would have stopped 800,000 entries in the past four months if it had already been signed into law.
  • Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell admittedly publicly that his own party has played politics with securing the border, stating“I followed the instructions of my conference, who were insisting that we tackle this in October. I mean, it’s actually our side that wanted to tackle the border issue. We started it,” McConnell said, adding that“things have changed over the last four months.” 

In December, Tester pressed Senate leadership to prioritize these border security negotiations and tackle our broken immigration system. In a recent statewide and national op-ed, Tester called for the Senate to get the bill on the floor for debate.

Read a memo outlining the facts about the bipartisan border security proposal HERE.

Read Tester’s full letter to Minority Leader McConnell and Speaker Johnson HERE.