March 18, 2024

Orange County Register: Bipartisan compromise is key to solving border and immigration challenges

There is no denying that we have a broken immigration system and real problems at our southwest border that demand Republicans and Democrats come together to deliver pragmatic solutions. Unfortunately, far too many in Congress prefer to politicize this issue during an election year rather than find common ground. There is too much finger pointing and too little action.

Recently, a bipartisan Senate border security bill was tanked by Speaker Mike Johnson, presumably to appease former President Trump. Rather than taking concrete steps to help solve problems they’ve been fixated on for years, Trump and his adherents apparently didn’t want to give a win to President Biden. That is politics at its worst.

While far from perfect, the bipartisan border security deal, negotiated by Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ), was a thoughtful step forward to provide essential resources to federal law enforcement, crack down on fentanyl trafficking, and address the unacceptable backlog in asylum processing. Because of Trump and Johnson, the chances for that bill to advance and get a vote in Congress are slim.

That said, continued failure to tackle our immigration and border security challenges are not an option, and I will continue to work in good faith with members of both parties on solutions.

In the House of Representatives, we have the DIGNITY Act, the most promising bipartisan, comprehensive immigration and border legislation in recent memory. It would not only address border security challenges, but also provide a solution for undocumented immigration, all while strengthening our workforce. The DIGNITY Act restores order to our immigration system while affirming that we must treat those coming to the United States looking for better opportunity with dignity and respect. It is gaining momentum, and I am proud to be a cosponsor.

There are also programs and funding mechanisms in place that we can use to support communities and organizations overburdened by the influx of migrants. Funds through the Shelter and Services Program (SSP) are one example. Recently, I sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas requesting available SSP funds be released as quickly as possible to organizations in our region that keep asylum seekers off the streets and provide them with short-term shelter, food, and other essential resources. SSP funds should be maintained and expanded in future government funding discussions.

Federal funds should also go to increase law enforcement personnel and modernize border technology to minimize gaps in adequate staffing and improve how Border Patrol seizes contraband, such as fentanyl and other illegal opioids.

During my time in Congress, I have visited the border numerous times. These visits reaffirmed my belief that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Border Patrol need additional resources to create smarter, more effective border security measures. I have consistently supported strong funding for CBP and Border Patrol in yearly government funding packages, and will continue to advocate for improved border infrastructure and more personnel.

However, I recognize that increased funding is a short-term fix. We ultimately need long-term solutions.

In a recent trip to the border, President Biden urged Congress to stop playing politics with the issue, work together, and focus on results. He reiterated this message clearly in his State of the Union Address. We need to do exactly that, and we don’t have to start from square one.

That’s why I recently helped launch the Democrats for Border Security Task Force, a group of House members determined to work with Republican colleagues on large-scale policy proposals to address border and immigration challenges. The bipartisan Senate border security bill and the DIGNITY Act are good places to start.

In a time of divided government, coming together in a bipartisan manner to devise a comprehensive solution is key. No one will get everything they want. I am ready to get to work, and I’ll keep fighting for strong bipartisan border security and immigration reform legislation that not only meets the demands of the moment, but also sets our country up for success down the road.

The sad reality of today’s politics is that it’s much easier to disparage your political opponents than to roll up your sleeves and get things done. But despite the polarization and partisanship so pervasive in Washington, I still believe that we can do big things when we work together.

By:  Rep. Mike Levin
Source: Orange County Register