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White House issues veto threat for Republican border security bill

Democrats immediately criticized the legislation introduced in the House last month, saying it goes beyond the scope of border security.
Hundreds of migrants arrive in Ciudad Juarez to cross into the United States before Title 42 ends
Migrants arrive in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to cross the border into the U.S. on Sunday. David Peinado Romero / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — The White House on Monday issued a veto threat for a House Republican-sponsored measure to address immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, days before the end of the pandemic-era Title 42 is expected to prompt a surge of migrants.

A statement of administration policy said that while the Biden administration supports productive efforts to reform the country's immigration system, it opposes the Secure the Border Act of 2023, which it said would make "elements of our immigration system worse."

The legislation, it said, "does nothing to address the root causes of migration, reduces humanitarian protections, and restricts lawful pathways, which are critical alternatives to unlawful entry."

Republicans say the bill would address a crisis at the border by mandating that Customs and Border Protection hire and train 22,000 Border Patrol agents and develop a plan to upgrade existing technology to make sure agents are well-equipped and safe. It would also require the homeland security secretary to immediately resume construction of the border wall, a centerpiece of former President Donald Trump's administration. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said the House would vote on it this month and called it "the strongest border security package that Congress has ever taken up."

The White House said that the bill would cut off nearly all access to humanitarian protections "in ways that are inconsistent with our Nation’s values and international obligations" and would make processing less efficient. It would do that by banning the use of a mobile application to process noncitizens and by restricting the Department of Homeland Security's parole authority, it said.

In addition, it said that the measure would reduce funding for essential programs such as one that provides funds to state and local governments.

"While we welcome Congress’ engagement on meaningful steps to address immigration and the challenges at the border, this bill would make things worse, not better. Because this bill does very little to actually increase border security while doing a great deal to trample on the Nation’s core values and international obligations, it should be rejected," the White House said in its statement.

The statement also said that the administration believes a "successful border management strategy" should include enforcement at the border of illegal crossings, methods to deter and discourage illegal immigration while also providing legal pathways to ensure people are the border are not turned away "to face death or serious harm."

House Republicans unveiled the legislation at the end of April, and it was met with immediate criticism from congressional Democrats because they said it would go beyond the scope of border security and would punish all noncitizens, including legal residents, trafficking victims and refugees."

The veto threat comes as the U.S. prepares for the lifting Thursday of Title 42, the pandemic-era restriction that expelled migrants immediately without an asylum hearing. The policy will expire at the end of Thursday and the U.S. will revert to using national immigration laws and other tools that target asylum-seekers.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the border last week ahead of the expected influx of migrants. "The border is not open, it has not been open and it will not be open subsequent to May 11," he said.

On Friday, Biden defended in an interview with MSNBC his decision to send 1,500 troops to the southern U.S. border ahead of the expected surge of migrants there. The president argued that a legislative response was needed and that it is up to Congress to pass an immigration bill.