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FIRST ON FOX: The House Republican Conference on Friday is unveiling an ambitious blueprint of policies to secure the besieged southern border if the GOP retakes control of the chamber next year — a framework that will seek to bolster physical infrastructure as well as closing asylum loopholes.
The American Security Task Force was created last year by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and headed by Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., to form policies to solve the crisis at the southern border — which saw more than 1.7 million migrant encounters in FY 2021, and more than 200,000 migrant encounters a month since March.
The framework, obtained first by Fox News Digital, consists of policy proposals for Republicans to pass in the House should they take the majority next year after the November midterms.
Katko, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, said in an interview with Fox that the porous border is a major security issue — pointing to an increase in overdoses due to fentanyl and suspected terrorists attempting to infiltrate the United States.
“We’ve got a lot of very serious security issues going on at the border, people from 160 different countries have come across the border, and it’s not just a Mexican and Northern Triangle issue, it’s a worldwide issue that people are exploiting,” he said. “It’s really a concern. So everything we did in here has that background in mind and that background of ‘We’ve got to stop this.’ We can turn it around, and we’ve got to do better.”
US Representative John Katko (R-N.Y.) addresses the press during the congressional border delegation visit to El Paso, Texas. (Justin Hamel / AFP)
Leading the policy rollout is legislation that would require the federal government to continue with construction of the Trump-era border wall. Almost 500 miles of the project was constructed during the Trump administration, but it was immediately halted by the Biden administration. It has led to a situation where there are yawning gaps in the barrier through which migrants pour into the U.S.
That legislation would also modernize Customs and Border Protection (CBP) technology at both the northern and southern borders, as well as increase staffing for the agency. It would also ramp up funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for internal enforcement.
The Republicans also proposed expanding authorities like the Title 42 public health order — which has been used to expel a majority of migrants at the southern border in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — to allow the immediate return of migrants and property to stop the flow of fentanyl and other drugs into the country.
Beyond broader security measures, the Republican blueprint also eyes a sweeping asylum overhaul. Immigration groups and border officials have long pointed to closing loopholes and other asylum rules as just as important as security measures — noting how many migrants will seek out Border Patrol agents and then be released into the U.S.
The Republican blueprint wants to reinstate the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. That policy, ended by President Biden, forced migrants to stay in Mexico rather than be released into the U.S. while they waited to have their asylum claims heard.
The platform also calls for reforms to disincentivize the movement of unaccompanied children to the border and the end to the “abuse” of parole authority — which is supposed to be used in case-by-case situations, but has been used by the Biden administration to release significant numbers of migrants into the interior.
The package also includes measures to mandate E-Verify — something Republicans have sought for years — ensure that illegal immigrants cannot access government benefits like Social Security, and ramp up penalties for overstay of visas.
“Every component of what we’re doing is important, whether it’s building the physical barriers, whether it’s giving ICE more funding, whether it’s ensuring that employers are using E-Verify, to ending the abuse of parole authority, all those things contribute to a more secure nation,” Katko told Fox.
“And what’s important about that is that if the bad guys understand that we are going to enforce the laws and we’re going to implement programs that are going to ensure that the gaming of the system that’s going on now, then they won’t be advertising to people to come to the border because they won’t be able to get them across, and they won’t be making billions of dollars a month,” he said.
Katko said the task force has been working “hand-in-glove” with Border Patrol agents, and lawmakers have made multiple visits to the border in part to find out what agents say they need to secure the border. The Biden administration has claimed the border is secure.
As a result, the platform has secured the endorsement of the Border Patrol union — which called the policies “desperately needed.”
In a statement, the National Border Patrol Council said it “staunchly supports these solutions because we are currently witnessing unprecedented public safety and public health crises that are the direct result of the Biden Administration’s radical open borders policies.”
“This Democratic-controlled Congress has completely and totally failed the American people, as record numbers of Americans are dying of drug overdoses and record numbers of individuals defy our laws with no consequences and enter our country illegally, oftentimes undetected,” NBPC President Brandon Judd said. “This lawlessness and the tragic loss of lives cannot continue, and we have the ability to do something about it.”
Migrants line up as they wait to be processed by US Border Patrol after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in Yuma, Arizona. ((Photo by Allison Dinner / AFP) )
“The American Security Task Force framework must be enacted as soon as possible, and we are proud to endorse these House Republican efforts,” he said.
The framework comes as border security has emerged as a top issue for Republicans and conservatives. A broad coalition of hawkish immigration groups and former Trump officials had urged congressional Republicans in May to unite behind a robust “flagship” border security bill if they retake majorities, and made a number of policy recommendations that are also in the Republican framework.
“Congress should be emboldened with the mandate to immediately legislate unflinchingly, ensuring that neither this nor any future administration is again able to weaponize loopholes in the immigration system—and defiantly refuse to follow plain law—to purposefully drive mass illegal immigration to the United States,” the coalition said.
It is unclear which of the GOP policies could draw the support of Democrats in either the House or Senate — and which could be signed into law by Biden. Democrats have often focused their attention on policies that would expand legal asylum avenues and also grant a pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrants already in the country.
Katko is one of a number of Republicans who has ruled out any talk of broader immigration reform until the border is fully secure.
“If you’re not securing the border, all this talk about immigration reform is superfluous,” he said. “So we have to secure the border first and then have the more difficult discussions about immigration reform, which we must have.”
In terms of the blueprint, Katko said that Republicans intend to push hard for it if they take the House majority next year, putting the ball in the court of the Biden administration.
“I think we’re going to be very aggressive, and I think the administration will have some choices to make,” he said. “Do they want to spin their wheels for two years and get nothing done or do they want to work with Republicans if the Republicans are in the majority and start doing some of the things that Republicans want?“
Adam Shaw is a politics reporter for Fox News Digital, with a focus on immigration. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @AdamShawNY