Biden Promises to “Shut Down” Border If Congress Can Pass Bipartisan Deal

President Joe Biden urged Congress on Friday to pass a bipartisan bill that he argued would address an escalating immigration crisis, vowing to “shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed.”

“What’s been negotiated would – if passed into law – be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” Biden wrote in a statement. “It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

The president’s statements mark a significant rhetorical escalation on the immigration issue. Undocumented southern border crossings reached record numbers in December, though the number of crossings has declined so far this month. 

Biden was elected in 2020 promising to roll back some of Donald Trump’s most inhumane anti-immigrant policies, such as his draconian implementation of the asylum restrictions known as Title 42, which Biden ended in May of last year.

Although the precise contours of the bipartisan border deal have yet to be revealed, sources familiar with the deal have said the bill would include restrictions similar to Trump-era policies, Reuters reported. 

The agreement would give the Department of Homeland Security the authority to expel undocumented migrants if the number of daily border encounters passes 4,000. That authority would become mandatory if the daily number surpasses 5,000 over the course of a week. 

Biden’s statement also called for more funding for “an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl at our southwest border.”

“For everyone who is demanding tougher border control, this is the way to do it,” Biden wrote. “If you’re serious about the border crisis, pass a bipartisan bill, and I will sign it.”

The Democratic president’s statement is already drawing backlash from members of his own party. 

“President Biden is finally admitting that he’s given up on his campaign promise to enact more humane immigration policies than Trump,” a former Biden immigration official told Politico Friday night. “He would rather adopt Trump’s border rhetoric than continue the work he started as Vice President to fix the border by addressing the root causes of migration.”

The border agreement will also face serious headwinds from top members of the GOP, hoping to use immigration to galvanize its base in this election year and loath to hand Biden what some might consider a political victory. In a letter to his colleagues Friday, House Speaker Mike Johnson said the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

The emerging GOP line is that a bipartisan deal is unnecessary, and that Biden can use his current executive authority to crack down on border crossings. “Prove you’re serious about the border crisis by using the authority you already have under current law to secure the border,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio wrote on X Friday. 

In a video posted to social media on Saturday, recent GOP presidential candidate dropout and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called the deal a “farce.” “Joe Biden already has the authority to shut the border down,” he said.

The loudest proponent of sinking a bipartisan deal has been former President Donald Trump, who has been spending weeks “lobbying Republicans both in private conversations and in public statements on social media to oppose the border compromise being delicately hashed out in the Senate,” CNN reported.

On Saturday morning, Trump continued to oppose the deal, writing in all-caps on Truth Social: “A bad border deal is far worse than no border deal.”

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