Border battle reveals Democratic divisions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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By Rep. Bradley Byrne

For months, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and my Democratic friends have denied a crisis on the border exists. Nothing to see here.

But the American people, our border agents, video footage and even the liberal media insisted otherwise and called for action.

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The public pressure was immense.

Now, in a development as stunning as it is sudden, Democrats have dramatically shifted gears, speaking out against the housing of illegal immigrants in detention and the need for immediate action to improve conditions.

This comes after Democrats refused for months to give the Administration the funding it needs to provide food, medical care and temporary shelter to the very people Democrats now claim to be so concerned over.

Over the past several weeks alone, Democrats repeatedly blocked a Republican bill that would have offered aid while also providing border security funds to alleviate this problem going forward.

Last week, to stave off the mounting public pressure, the Democrats rammed through a partisan border bill that catered to the far-left fringe of their party but offered nothing to address the underlying problem. The partisan bill stood no chance of passing the Senate, and the President would not have signed it into law.

On the other hand, across the Capitol, under the leadership of Sen. Richard Shelby, the Senate passed a $4.5 billion package with bipartisan support.  The deal does not include everything Republicans and President Trump wanted.  But, in addition to improving conditions for migrants, it actually offers some funding priorities of our border agents and immigration judges. Remarkably, 84 United States Senators voted for it, including 34 Democrats.

To demonstrate the bipartisan nature of the Senate approach, Senate Republicans brought up the Pelosi bill too.  It was easily defeated, only earning 37 votes. That is only three more votes received from Democrats than the Republican bill.

After gaining such overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate, the Shelby bill placed Pelosi in a difficult position with her Democratic Caucus. She was caught between many of her freshman members, who were feeling the heat from constituents back home, and her radical progressive wing. Those radicals, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, favor open borders and want to defund and even abolish ICE. They threatened an open rebellion if Pelosi moved a package that included any funds for border security.

After days of tense internal squabbling, Pelosi reluctantly brought forth the Senate bill, which passed and will immediately begin providing for some modest improvements of conditions at our border.

By refusing to bring the Senate bill to a vote, Pelosi would have turned down $2.88 billion for shelter for children in immigration custody, $1.2 billion for processing and medical care, and $200 million for the Department of Justice to process immigration cases. She would have blocked the very resources we need to address the humanitarian crisis on the southern border. Sadly, many in her caucus preferred that option.

I am glad we were able to send the bill to the President and give much needed aid to the border, but the men and women patrolling that border are not out of the woods yet. More must be done going forward to solve our immigration crisis, including fixing our asylum laws. I will continue advocating for legislation to help alleviate the problem, including the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act.

Unfortunately, as we have seen all year in the House, Democrats seem too concerned with impeachment to address the concerns of American citizens. And with the growing power of the Democrat’s radical wing, passing legislation will only get more difficult.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.