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Congressman Deployed with National Guard to Southern Border: Hell Yes, There's a Crisis

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Adam Kinzinger is a young, conservative Congressman from Illinois, whose national guard duties recently brought him to the Southern border.  Upon returning from his deployment, Kinzinger tweeted out a string of thoughts about what he witnessed firsthand during his tour -- specifically in response to Wisconsin's newly-elected Democratic governor pulling units out of Arizona, sparking a controversy.  This assessment should be given extra weight because he's not known for hyperbolic overstatement or rhetorical excess:

That was in late February.  Fast forward to this week, with the Senate preparing to vote on President Trump's emergency declaration.  Kinzinger appeared on CNN and opined that based on his experience, he absolutely agrees that the situation on the US/Mexico border is a crisis in urgent need of addressing.  This is compelling:

As Katie covered Wednesday, the flow of illegal immigrants across the border has become even more acute in early 2019.  Even mainstream news organizations are reporting on the very serious strains our immigration system and officials are encountering.  Here's the New York Times:

The number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has once again broken records, with unauthorized entries nearly double what they were a year ago, suggesting that the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States. More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty. “The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters in announcing the new data on Tuesday. The nation’s top border enforcement officer painted a picture of processing centers filled to capacity, border agents struggling to meet medical needs and thousands of exhausted members of migrant families crammed into a detention system that was not built to house them — all while newcomers continue to arrive, sometimes by the busload, at the rate of 2,200 a day.

A top Border Patrol official is quoted referring to these challenges as "clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis."  The article goes on to lay out the sheer size and scope of the problem:

More than 50,000 adults are currently in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, the highest number ever. Arrests along the southern border have increased 97 percent since last year, the Border Patrol said, with a 434 percent increase in the El Paso sector, which covers the state of New Mexico and the two westernmost counties of Texas. Families, mainly from Central America, continue to arrive in ever-larger groups in remote parts of the southwest...The difference is that the nature of immigration has changed, and the demographics of those arriving now are proving more taxing for border officials to accommodate. Most of those entering the country in earlier years were single men, most of them from Mexico, coming to look for work. If they were arrested, they could quickly be deported. Now, the majority of border crossers are not single men but families — fathers from Honduras with adolescent boys they are pulling away from gang violence, mothers with toddlers from Guatemala whose farms have been lost to drought. While they may not have a good case to remain in the United States permanently, it is not so easy to speedily deport them if they arrive with children and claim protection under the asylum laws.

My objection to the president's emergency declaration is not rooted in a disagreement that we're dealing with a bona fide crisis.  My objection is narrowly about the executive's use of money in the wake of a specific battle and debate with Congress over appropriations for an explicit purpose.  Congress expressed its will (I strongly believe it should have done more, and allotted far more funds for new border barriers), and I'm concerned about the precedent of a president being dissatisfied with Congress' decisions and abusing his or her power to make an end-run around legislative verdicts.  Sen. Rand Paul captured my sentiment quite well in explaining his planned vote in favor of overturning the emergency declaration, warning against ceding "extra-constitutional" authority to the executive.

"I can’t vote to give the president the power to spend money that hasn’t been appropriated by Congress. We may want more money for border security, but Congress didn’t authorize it. If we take away those checks and balances, it’s a dangerous thing," he said.  "Every single Republican I know decried President Obama’s use of executive power to legislate. We were right then. But the only way to be an honest officeholder is to stand up for the same principles no matter who is in power."  That said, the notion that this is a manufactured political crisis is belied by the facts on the ground.  Sadly, it looks like many Democrats are more interested in slogans and anti-Trump posturing than addressing a very serious problem affecting American governance and national sovereignty.  I'll leave you with this exchange between freshman Congressman Dan Crenshaw and the Homeland Security Secretary at a hearing this week:

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