If you need something done right, then do it yourself, as the old saying goes. But when it comes to enforcing U.S. immigration laws, state and local enforcement are prevented from doing it themselves, even while federal law enforcement officers are directed not to take certain enforcement actions — a policy established by the Biden administration in January 2021. With a rapidly deteriorating border, it’s long past time that changed.
The crisis on our southern border worsens by the day. Since President Joe Biden’s inauguration, at least 1 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended entering the country: an average of almost 200,000 per month, according to Customs and Border Protection. To put that number into perspective, it’s as if the administration’s open border policies are welcoming a city bigger than the population of Montgomery, Alabama, or Savannah, Georgia, every single month with no end in sight.
At Biden’s directive, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement dropped by almost 50% in the first five months of his term despite the record-high illegal border crossings. At least 50,000 illegal immigrants have been released into the United States without a court date. And while the Biden administration urges American citizens to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, it continues to release COVID-positive illegal immigrants into the country.
Biden has shown little interest in fixing the situation himself. His chosen point person for the crisis, Vice President Kamala Harris, has been an unmitigated disaster , making a single trip to the border and being hundreds of miles away from the highest level of illegal crossings.
If the federal government won’t secure the border, then state and local law enforcement should be empowered to do so. Our bill, the Empowering Law Enforcement Act, does just that.
Under current law, state and local law enforcement must have a preexisting agreement with ICE to detain an illegal immigrant. But the ELEA would grant state and local law enforcement inherent immigration enforcement authority to investigate, identify, apprehend, arrest, detain, or transfer an illegal immigrant into federal custody. This bill would give the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security flexibility on how long a criminal migrant may be detained, extending the 180-day period to ensure violent criminals are not released into U.S. communities. The legislation also reimburses state and local authorities for related incarceration and transportation costs.
The ELEA is about common sense. We’ve got thousands of law enforcement officers ready to step up and enforce the law. We wish this legislation were not necessary. We wish the federal government would do its job and administer the immigration laws as written by Congress. But if the Biden administration continues to handcuff CBP and ICE officers, then state and local law enforcement must be given the tools to do the job and protect their communities.
Biden and his administration have failed our law enforcement and the rest of the country with their reckless open-border policies. Congress should move quickly to pass the Empowering Law Enforcement Act so that states and towns can do their part to enforce the law and end this crisis.
Tommy Tuberville is the junior U.S. senator from Alabama. Buddy Carter represents Georgia’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.