“The status quo has not worked”: Tester Confronts Secretary Mayorkas, Calls on Biden Administration to Secure the Southern Border

Senator: “Illegal immigration needs to end, and end yesterday. I have made clear that both the President, you, and Congress needs to step up”

Speaking at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Jon Tester directly criticized Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the Biden Administration for failing to secure the southern border and keep Montana safe.

During his remarks, Tester called on Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden to “step up” and do more to get the southern border under control so that we know who is entering our country: “Illegal immigration needs to end, and end yesterday. I have made clear that both the President, you, and Congress needs to step up to address this problem in a proactive way – and should have a long time ago.”

Tester panned the Biden Administration’s current policy failures, stating plainly:“It’s apparent the status quo has not worked and is not working currently.” He then directly pressed Secretary Mayorkas on whether or not the Administration would answer his call to take additional executive actions to secure the border: “I called on you and president Biden to use your executive powers to do whatever you could do to secure that border, as many of my colleagues have talked about here. So my question for you is, does the Administration have any plans to use any additional executive powers to address the situation at the southern border?”

Additionally, Tester called out Congress for tanking bipartisan border security legislation for political purposes despite the fact that the bill would have provided additional manpower and critical policy changes: “We are seeing a high number of encounters at the southern border. We all talk about fentanyl coming into this country and, quite honestly, all the way up to the northern border. It’s affected Montana in a big, big way. This poison is killing a lot of people… Congress had its opportunity to do something about the southern border – and the northern border, I might add, Montana being a northern border state, that’s important… Congress decided to play politics with it and in the last 60 days — the week after we failed to pass that bill, there were times when 6,500 people were coming across the border and could have been stopped if we passed this bill and we chose to play politics with it.”

Tester continued: “The National Border Patrol Council, which represents thousands of Border Patrol agents that keep our borders safe, endorsed the bill Congress decided to play politics with two months ago. It said it would drop illegal border crossings nationwide. It would allow our agents to get back to detecting and apprehending those who want to cross our border illegally.”

Tester has led the charge to secure the southern border and stop the deadly flow of fentanyl that is wreaking havoc on Montana. He has repeatedly expressed to Secretary Mayorkas and President Biden that the Administration must do more and “use all of the remaining tools at your disposal” to secure our borders. 

Tester voted to secure the southern border in February – but politicians in Congress blocked the bipartisan border security legislation. Read a memo outlining the facts about the bipartisan border security proposal HEREwhich received the endorsement of the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) and the Director of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Through his role as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester secured significant wins for border security and law enforcement in the FY2024 government funding appropriations package. Border security wins backed by Tester in the package include:

  • Funding for up to 22,000 U.S. Border Patrol Agents to secure areas between ports of entry;
  • 150 new Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry to help secure our southern border;
  • 41,500 new detention beds for an increase of 7,500 or 24% over FY23, following Tester’s efforts to prevent mass releases due to the failure of the bipartisan border security bill;
  • Increased funding for border technology, including funding to purchase new NII border scanners and install existing technology, following Tester’s efforts to ensure Congress fully funded fentanyl scanning technology at our borders.

Tester successfully included his bipartisan Fentanyl Eradication and Narcotics Deterrence (FEND) Off Fentanyl Act as part of a critical national security package that passed the U.S. Senate earlier this year. His bipartisan legislation would impose economic sanctions on those engaged in the international trafficking of illicit fentanyl, precursor chemicals used to make fentanyl, or other related opioids, and declare international trafficking of fentanyl as a national emergency.