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The border crisis spells disaster for Idaho

by SEN. JAMES RISCH Contributing Writer
| September 30, 2021 1:00 AM

The Biden administration inherited an effective immigration system with steady apprehension rates. But in a matter of weeks, it dismantled every successful immigration strategy, implemented open border policies, and created the conditions for a crisis at the southern border.

Since the beginning of 2021, Customs and Border Patrol agents have encountered over 1,323,000 illegal migrants. That is enough people to create the 9th largest city in America, and surpasses the populations of Montana, Rhode Island, Delaware, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. We have experienced more illegal border crossings than any other time in over 20 years.

What started as a crisis has turned into a full-blown disaster. It’s a national security disaster, it’s a public health disaster, and it’s rapidly becoming a disaster for Idaho.

The administration’s refusal to uphold our laws fails Idahoans and imperils the United States’ future.

Criminal cartels are taking advantage of the administration’s open border policies to make millions of dollars every day trafficking people and drugs across our border, then using that money to grow their illicit operations. 

In the mid-2000s, meth use was spiking in Idaho, something I took on as Governor by establishing a permanent state office of drug policy. We had success in mitigating that surge, but meth use – and now fentanyl use, too – is once again on the rise in Idaho. At the southern border, fentanyl and meth seizures at the ports of entry are up over 700 percent. Once across the border, these deadly drugs filter into Idaho communities, bringing fatal overdoses and spikes in drug-related violence. 

The border crisis is also fueling the COVID-19 pandemic. In the border town of McAllen, Texas, over 1,500 COVID-19 positive migrants were released into the country in the first week of August alone. With the Delta variant ripping through Idaho and our hospitals at maximum capacity, the stakes of this administration’s reckless border policies are too high and the potential consequences too devastating. 

The President must immediately reinstate the commonsense policies his administration rescinded, including construction of the border wall. 

Data shows that in areas where contractors installed the border wall, illegal drugs, border crossings, and human smuggling schemes all decreased. In the Yuma sector of Arizona, the Department of Homeland Security estimated that illegal entries in areas with new border wall installation fell 87 percent year-over-year. In the San Diego sector, the border wall enabled CBP officials to drastically reduce the number of active agents and redirect them to more critical areas along the border. 

Last month, the United States Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration for its attempt to replace the successful Remain in Mexico standard with the Obama-era “catch and release” policy. Not only did “catch and release” incentivize migrants to make the dangerous trip north, it enabled them to permanently disappear within the U.S. before their court date with an immigration judge. With Remain in Mexico back in place, the U.S. will help ensure those who seek to make their home here do so legally. 

The United States is a generous country, but we are also a nation of laws. The administration’s refusal to uphold our laws fails Idahoans and imperils the United States’ future. Its refusal to address this tragedy is a refusal to protect America’s border agents and communities from El Paso all the way to Idaho Falls and Coeur d’Alene. 

It’s time for the Biden administration to acknowledge its failed approach, work with Republicans to reinstate effective border measures, and put U.S. national security first.


U.S. senator for Idaho, Jim Risch serves as Idaho's 28th senator.