House GOP Pledges to Prioritize More Border Personnel in New Congress
Republicans preview how they will address rising border crossings once they control the House.
Republican lawmakers are promising to provide more resources for the federal government’s border security efforts when they take control of the House next year, saying they will help key agencies add staff.
More than two dozen House members, all Republicans from Texas, announced their plan to aggressively shore up the southern border and turn away migrants looking to enter the United States. It included more physical barriers, reinstating the “Remain in Mexico” program that was in place under President Trump, ensuring more border crossers remain in federal detention and limiting opportunities for immigrants to claim asylum. They also called for reforms at Customs and Border Protection that would make it easier for the agency to recruit and retain talent.
“It is crucial CBP has the authorities and resources necessary to fully staff with the personnel needed to patrol the field,” the lawmakers said without detailing the specific changes they would make.
The promise will be a challenging one to keep, as CBP has struggled for years to fill Border Patrol and customs officer positions. The Trump administration signed a contract worth up to $300 million to help it bring on 7,500 border personnel, but canceled it after it managed to hire just 15 employees. Lawmakers for years were forced to claw back money appropriated for CBP hiring after the agency failed to meet its targets. In more recent years, the agency has seen some success in slowly growing its workforce.
That provision of the Republicans’ plan could win bipartisan support. In his fiscal 2023 budget proposal, President Biden requested funding for hundreds of new Border Patrol agents and customs officers. House Democrats similarly allotted money for significant hiring in their fiscal 2023 appropriations bills. The Biden administration has repeatedly relied on employees from throughout DHS to deploy to the border to manage record levels of border crossings, as permanent resources there have routinely become overwhelmed.
Republicans have unceasingly bashed the White House and congressional Democrats for their border policies, with encounters increasing dramatically beginning in the final year of Trump’s presidency. The GOP has vowed to make the issue a central focus of the 118th Congress, when it controls the House. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is seeking to become speaker, has suggested Republicans could seek to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over border security issues.
The Texas Republicans said morale among CBP staff has sunk in recent years and vowed to address a longstanding complaint from the workforce by pushing for more agents to go back into the field, rather than being tied up with processing and other administrative duties. Across DHS, job satisfaction has fallen from 57% of the workforce in 2020 to just 51% this year, according to the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. The Biden administration has similarly said it is looking to reallocate resources to ensure as many Border Patrol agents are in the field as possible.
The lawmakers said they would end alternatives to detention, which allows DHS to release some migrants into the country while they await proceedings in immigration court. They also said they would provide more flexibility to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, deriding the Biden administration for focusing on undocumented immigrants who pose the biggest threat. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, who is seeking the House Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, was one of the signatories on the proposal.