Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., is warning that Border Patrol agents will “lose control of the border” if Title 42 is allowed to end in the coming weeks – just as he is floating an immigration compromise which would extend the Trump-era public health order in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for two million illegal immigrants.
Tillis spoke on “America’s Newsroom” on Thursday, as Title 42 – which allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the southern border due to the COVID-19 pandemic – is due to expire as a result of a court order on Dec. 21. Both Republicans and Democrats have warned about a coming increase in migrants once the order ends. The Biden administration has now appealed against the court order, but a decision will not be made in time for the Dec. 21 cutoff.
Tillis gave a grim warning as he highlighted efforts being made in the chamber to come to a bipartisan solution – and accused the administration of not having a solution for the crisis. The administration has said it has a plan in place, but lawmakers have dismissed it as insufficient.
“What the administration is going to have to accept is we’re going to fix the problem that they created,” he said. “In the last year of the Trump administration, we had about a half million illegal crossings. That is manageable for Border Patrol. Now we have over 2 million. And if Title 42 goes away, that could be 3 million or more.”
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“And the Border Patrol has told me to my face that they will lose control of the border,” he said. “They’re already spread thin. This is a crisis that the administration refuses to accept, and it’s one that we need to solve.“
Tillis has been working on an immigration framework with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., that would extend Title 42 for at least one year, with a metric component in place for extensions.
Other border security elements would include hiring more Border Patrol agents as well as pay increases, and the creation of regional processing centers to surge resources at the border and judge asylum claims – a provision included in last year’s Bipartisan Border Solutions Act. It would also include resources for detention, deportation and expedited removal of illegal immigrants.
A source told Fox News Digital this week that the funding for such measures would be at least $25 billion and could be upwards of $40 billion. That would be combined with a pathway to citizenship for approximately two million illegal immigrants either protected or eligible for protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
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That population – who came to the U.S. as minors – have been the focus of prior immigration deals in the past, combined with border security measures, including during the Trump administration.
That proposal has caused some Republicans to balk at a pathway for illegal immigrants at a time when there is a record number of border encounters.
“You hear a lot of talk about so-called Dreamers and how we need to give them some kind of legal status,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said this week. “Well, right now, Joe Biden is creating hundreds of thousands of more so-called Dreamers every month. What we have to do is secure our border, prevent this historic flood of illegal aliens coming to our country before we address any other issues in our immigration system.”
Tillis said he disagreed with his Republican colleague on this point.
“I think that when we’re talking about what we are talking about proposing here is simply looking at a small portion of the population that even President Trump supported as a path to citizenship,” he said. “But here’s what they have to do. They have to be in school. They have to be gainfully employed. They can be in the military. They can’t have a criminal record. And they could never have been on any sort of federal assistance.”
“These are people that came to this country as minors who are now doctors, scientists, teachers, hundreds serving in the military. And I think the American people understand this is very different than this concept of amnesty,” he said. “This is going to give them a path and it’s not automatic. They’re going to have to work and maintain those highest standards. And for that, we get a closed border and we shut down the cartels. That seems to me like something worth working on.”
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It is unclear how many votes such a compromise may have, especially with time running out before the Republicans take the House at the beginning of January.
Additionally, Democrats and the White House have pushed hard for a broader amnesty of at least 11 million illegal immigrants since the Biden administration took office – and some Democrats may oppose the border security measures.
Tillis, however, said there would be no broader scope of pathway to citizenship in the deal ahead.
“The White House is going to get what we’ve agreed to here and nothing more,” he said.