Former Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf is insisting that the right approach to U.S. border security requires a policy change, rather than the billions in new spending that President Joe Biden is pursuing.
“There’s not a money problem along the southwest border, it’s a policy problem,” Mr. Wolf told NTD’s “Capitol Report” on Wednesday. “We have the wrong policies in place that are not deterring the illegal behavior that we have there.”
Lawmakers are currently debating a $105 billion spending request from President Biden. The package attaches about $14 billion for additional border security personnel and equipment to tens of billions in spending for unrelated issues, like the war in Ukraine and new security spending for Israel.
Several Republican lawmakers have expressed apprehensions about the president’s spending request. Some have even sought to take up funding for Israeli security—an issue on which they’re largely in agreement—and pass that as a separate measure from other items in the president’s request on which members are more divided. Where the president’s spending request touches on border security, several Republican senators have begun articulating demands to resume the construction of a wall on the U.S. southern border. In addition, they hope to tighten the parameters under which border crossers may request asylum or otherwise be released into the country under various parole programs.
Mr. Wolf, who served as DHS Secretary under President Donald Trump, backed those Republicans challenging President Biden’s latest spending request.
“The question the Biden administration is giving Congress is, you know, ‘We need more resources, and we need more funding to help manage the crisis.’ And I think many members of Congress, particularly Republicans in the House, are saying, ‘Look, I’ve been giving you money over the last three years, and somehow the crisis continues to get worse and worse and worse,'” Mr. Wolf said.
Mr. Wolf said the policy problem he sees at the Southern border is a failure to disincentivize people from crossing the border illegally.
“They understand and they know what’s going on—that if you come across that border illegally, that probably within 24 to 48 hours, you’re released into the United States—and that is their goal,” Mr. Wolf said. “Their goal is to be released into American communities where they can stay pretty much forever, if not for several years before they see an immigration judge.”
He said many border crossers simply never show up for their court proceedings once they’ve been released into the United States, because they know they don’t qualify to remain in the country.
The former DHS secretary also said current border policies heighten the risk that known and suspected terrorists—or individuals from countries of concern like China and Iran—will enter the United States. Earlier this month, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.) announced that border patrol personnel had apprehended more than 24,000 Chinese nationals along the U.S. southern border in fiscal year 2023. That number represents a 1,100 percent increase from the year prior.
GOP Border Policy Demands Could Force Spending Showdown
While some Republicans are hoping to win tighter border policies out of the ongoing deliberations on President Biden’s $105 supplemental spending request, they’ll still have to convince a Democrat-controlled Senate and the president himself.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the number two Senate Democrat, said it’s a mistake for Republicans to attempt to force the Biden administration into border concessions in exchange for Ukraine aid. Mr. Durbin told the Associated Press this week that this negotiation strategy means “we have to do significant immigration reform in the next few weeks or we won’t send money to assist the people in Ukraine or other causes important to our national security.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told the Associated Press that the harder Republicans negotiate for such border measures, the more Democrats will feel compelled to fight for their own priorities on immigration.
“The more Republicans want, the more Democrats are going to want,” Mr. Murphy said.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told the Associated Press that negotiations are moving slowly “because Democrats have not yet accepted that the negotiations are not border security for Democratic immigration priorities. It’s border security for Ukraine aid.”
Mr. Wolf said Congress is the only entity with the power to address what he described repeatedly as a crisis along America’s southern border. Lawmakers will eventually have to act to address the issue, particularly the asylum system, he said.
“If you want to change the dynamics along that southern border and really start drawing this crisis to an end, you’ve got to reform the asylum system. You’ve got to make the credible fear standard higher, the threshold higher. Otherwise, you’re kind of making some improvements around the edges, but you’re not really getting to the heart of what’s driving the crisis,” he said.