Tester to Biden During Border Visit: “Use all remaining tools at your disposal” to Secure the Border

Senator in letter to the President: “As we wait for my colleagues in Congress to stop putting politics ahead of our national security, it is up to you to act.”

As President Biden visits the U.S.-Mexico border today, U.S. Senator Jon Tester sent him a letter stating that the President must use all remaining tools at his disposal to strengthen border security before things deteriorate further.

“I am writing you regarding the need to strengthen America’s border security as you visit the United States-Mexico border today. What is happening at the southern border is unacceptable, plain and simple. Congress and your Administration need to take action immediately to improve the situation before things deteriorate. I respectfully urge you to use all of the remaining tools at your disposal to strengthen border security where executive action is possible,” wrote Tester to President Biden.

Tester made it clear to President Biden that he hears from Montanans regularly who tell him they want to see a secure border and a solution to the fentanyl crisis: “Montanans from every corner of my state tell me that they want a secure border and a solution to the fentanyl crisis. I regularly meet with law enforcement officers, community leaders, and families that all highlight the devastation wrought by drug trafficking and illegal entries across the southern border. Earlier this month, a news report ran stating that Mexican drug cartels are targeting Montana, particularly taking advantage of the sparsely populated parts of the state, including Tribal reservations. This cannot be tolerated and Montanans expect everyone to do what they can to crack down on this growing problem.”

Tester also criticized D.C. politicians who blocked bipartisan border security legislation for political reasons: “Congress had an opportunity to address this dire situation in February but ultimately failed due to election year politics…This bill was endorsed by and received strong praise from the National Border Patrol Council, which represents thousands of Border Patrol agents and personnel charged with enforcing our country’s border security policies. The Director of Customs and Border Protection stated that would it ‘would provide the strongest set of tools we have had in decades to effectively manage migration and enhance our nation’s border security.’ And Senator Lankford said it would have stopped 800,000 entries over the past four months had it already been signed into law. 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 concluded his letter to the President by noting that while congressional action is needed to provide critical funding and asylum law changes, he has been clear that Biden must also use his executive authorities to get the situation under control: “I have said many times over the past three years, your Administration can and must do more to secure the southern border. I hope during your trip today you listen to the officers, agents, and law enforcement leaders on the ground and give them the additional tools they need to do their job and keep America safe. I also urge you to take immediate action to improve our asylum processes so that only those with valid claims are processed, to stop illegal border crossings and enforce our immigration laws, and to boost manpower with the limited tools you have and support the men and women who are working to keep our country safe.”

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.” 

Tester has pressed congressional leaders to pass the 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.

In December, Tester pressed Senate leadership to prioritize these border security negotiations and tackle our broken immigration system. In a 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 President Biden HERE.