Speaker Johnson Rejects Pending Border Deal: Illegal Crossings “Must Be Zero”


After years of insisting otherwise, the White House now calls the situation at the southern border “a crisis.” The administration had often rejected that phrase, preferring instead to describe the historic influx of migrants crossing illegally as “a challenge.”

But as Philip Wegmann writes via RealClear Wire, that nomenclature is no more. In a notable shift, when asked about border crossings, White House spokesman John Kirby told RealClearPolitics Monday, “The president himself has talked about the fact that there is a crisis going on at the border.”

This was a reference to a statement President Biden made Friday when he said that his administration had been “negotiating” with Congress for “two months” to “finally address the border crisis.” A change in policy as well as rhetoric, the president promised the next day that, if given new powers by Congress, he would “shut down the border right now.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson was quick to spot the change in language. “Finally. It took three years for President Biden to admit there is a crisis at the southern border,” he told RealClearPolitics in a statement, before adding, “It’s not just a crisis, it’s a catastrophe.”

“Still, the president claims he has no executive authority to fix the disaster he has created,” the speaker continued. “That is demonstrably untrue. He can and should act immediately.”

House Republicans appreciate the change in rhetoric.

And as Jackson Richman reports via The Epoch Times, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has made clear where House Republicans will draw the line on any agreement dealing with the border: allowing illegal crossings.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) arrives to the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 29, 2024. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Any border ’shutdown’ authority that ALLOWS even one illegal crossing is a non-starter. Thousands each day is outrageous. The number must be ZERO,” Mr. Johnson wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Jan. 29.

The deal, whose text is set to be released this week, reportedly would permit the president to close ports of entry if illegal crossings reach a certain threshold.

One of the negotiators, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), announced on Jan. 28 that a proposal was almost ready.

This bill could be ready to be on the floor of the United States Senate next week,” he said on CNN, “but it won’t be if Republicans decide that they want to keep this issue unsettled for political purposes.”

The White House called on Congress to give the president the ability to protect the border.

Until recently, Mr. Johnson advocated for HR2 because, in his view, presidents needed new legal authorities in order to secure the border,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a memo.

HR2, known as the Secure the Border Act, was passed by the GOP-controlled House last year. It would have required a border wall to be completed and for asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their claims are considered, in addition to other border security measures. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said that bill was dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled upper chamber.

Mr. Johnson previously said any Senate bill that doesn’t include HR2 would be dead on arrival in the House.

“If Speaker Johnson continues to believe—as President [Joe] Biden and Republicans and Democrats in Congress do—that we have an imperative to act immediately on the border, he should give this administration the authority and funding we’re requesting to secure the border,” the memo states.

The memo cited quotes from Mr. Johnson to demonstrate that the speaker is being contradictory.

It quotes him as saying in February 2023: “America is the most compassionate nation in the world, but our immigration system is broken. Reforming that system is a job for Congress, and any balanced legislative approach must include measures to strengthen border security.”

It also cites Mr. Johnson as writing in a letter to President Biden last month that “statutory reforms designed to restore operational control at our southern border must be enacted.”

Mr. Johnson’s office fired back.

“Speaker Johnson has been clear since the day he was handed the gavel that national security starts at our own border. The Secure the Border Act would codify this principle into federal law, and he continues to strongly urge the Senate and President to support it or similar legislation,” Raj Shah, Mr. Johnson’s deputy communications chief, told The Epoch Times on Jan. 29.

“But make no mistake, President Biden pledged on Friday to ‘shut down the border. However, with the stroke of a pen, he could begin by restoring Remain in Mexico, ending catch and release, [and] reforming asylum and parole standards. His refusal places our national sovereignty at stake.”

Former President Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner in the presidential primary, has voiced objections to the upcoming border deal.

A Border Bill is not necessary to stop the millions of people, many from jails and mental institutions located all over the World, that are POURING INTO OUR COUNTRY. It is an INVASION the likes of which no Country has ever had to endure. It is not sustainable or affordable, and will, under Crooked Joe Biden, ONLY GET WORSE,” he wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social.

President Biden has said he’d sign into law a bipartisan border deal.

“What’s been negotiated would—if passed into law—be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” he said in a Jan. 26 statement.

“It would give me, as president, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

However, Mr. Johnson said that President Biden already had executive authority to close down the border.

President Biden falsely claimed yesterday that he needs Congress to pass a new law to allow him to close the southern border, but he knows that is untrue,” he said on Jan. 25.

“As my letter stated, President Biden can begin to secure the border by ending catch-and-release, ceasing exploitation of parole authority, reinstating the Remain in Mexico program, expanding the use of expedited removal authority, and renewing construction of the border wall,” Mr. Johnson said, citing a letter he sent the president last year.

The forthcoming deal comes amid a crisis at the southern border, as there have been 785,422 encounters at the southwest border by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the 2024 fiscal year, which started in October 2023, according to the agency. According to CBP, there were almost 2.48 million encounters in the previous fiscal year—an increase of 96,725 from fiscal year 2022.

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