WASHINGTON D.C. – Sen. James Lankford has released the text of a bill framework designed to help fix the problem at America’s southern border, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said Monday during his State of the State Address that “we want to keep bad actors, like the drug cartels, out of our state.”
“I am happy to announce, we have finally finished strong bill text to add to the supplemental funding bill,” Lankford said Sunday in a press release. His office also issued a letter to his Oklahoma constituents, painting a picture of the crisis on the U.S.border with Mexico and outlining key components of the bill.
While Stitt did not specifically mention the bill, he affirmed his tough stance on illegal immigration.
“I have been vocal about my support of Texas and Governor Abbott as they fight to secure our southern border and put pressure on the Biden administration to enforce our laws,” Stitt said.
“I will continue to offer the assistance of the Oklahoma National Guard because we know that when we don’t have a secure border, every state is a border state.”
Lankford confronted misconceptions about the bipartisan deal in a social media post, explaining that the bill will not let 5,000 illegals in but instead will completely close down the border if the number reaches 5,000 in one week.
According to the Senate bill known as the Border Act, the secretary of homeland security shall mandatorily “activate the border emergency authority if during a period of seven consecutive calendar days, there is an average of 5,000 or more aliens who are encountered each day; or on any one calendar day, a combined total of 8,500 or more aliens are encountered.”
In December alone, more than 300,000 people sought illegal entry, according to recent U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. On average, that’s nearly 9,800 people every day.
When the border emergency authority is activated, the bill reads, the secretary of homeland security shall “have the authority, in the secretary’s sole and unreviewable discretion, to summarily remove from and prohibit, in whole or in part, entry into the United States of any alien identified in subsection (a)(3) …”
Subsection (a)(3) covers migrants who do not qualify for an exception, aliens who are “within 100 miles of the United States southwest land border” and those who have not been physically present in the United States for more than 14 days.
The 370-page proposal has been in the works for more than four months, and Lankford, a Republican, was the chief architect of the bipartisan effort, along with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Independent Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona.
“Most Oklahomans tell me that they are not opposed to legal immigration, but they are sick and tired of millions of illegal crossings every year,” Lankford said in the letter.
“I have worked to change the national security crisis at our southern border with policy that will close the loopholes in current law that are exploited by the cartels,” wrote Lankford, who represented the bill authors in numerous television appearances.
“The bill confronts the biggest issues at our open southern border: the need for a higher standard for asylum claims, stopping the abuse of humanitarian parole, ending catch and release, and taking on the cartels who traffic fentanyl and people across our open southern border,” Lankford said.
The bill provides funding to build and reinforce border walls, increase technology at the border and add more detention beds, more agents and more deportation flights.
The Biden-Harris administration said if the agreement becomes law, it would be the toughest set of changes to immigration policy in 30 years.
The bill would also unlock national security supplemental funding of more than $118 billion, including $20 billion for the U.S.-Mexico border crisis, $60 billion to support Ukraine in its war against Russia, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel and $10 billion in humanitarian assistance in Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he expects the first vote to be taken in the Senate on Wednesday.
“This is one of the most necessary and important pieces of legislation Congress has put forward in years to ensure America’s future prosperity and security,” Schumer said. “The priorities in this bill are too important to ignore and too vital to allow politics to get in the way.”
During last week’s National Prayer Breakfast, Biden addressed pressing concerns for funding for Ukraine and Israel as well as support for Palestinian civilians and strengthening the country’s allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
Former president Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, urged Republicans not to vote for the bill. House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Trump loyalist, said the bill will be “dead on arrival” if it reaches the House of Representatives.
“I’ve seen enough. This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the president has created,” Johnson said.
Johnson has proposed his own stand-alone aid package for Israel, supported by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Ok, with no help for Ukraine. Not a single Democrat in the House or Senate voted for Johnson’s H.R. 2.
Tulsa County Republicans thanked Lanford for his work on the compromise bill.
“Our job as the Republican Party is to support our Republican elected officials and candidates. That doesn’t mean we support the bill. It just means that we appreciate Sen. Lankford for the hard work that he was willing to put in on such a monumental task such as immigration reform,” said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, county chairman of the Tulsa County GOP.
Oklahoma Sen. Markwayne Mullin’s office said Monday he was reviewing the text of the bill. In a video message on Friday, Mullin said that to win his support, the bill would need to stem the flow of immigrants and change the asylum and parole processes.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and ass Communication. For more stories by Gaylord News, go to GaylordNews.net.