U.S. House Rep. Lauren Boebert led more than 20 congressional colleagues in introducing a resolution to censure President Joe Biden for “dereliction of duty” at the southern border. But some policy experts and constituents say the resolution is a “political stunt” and a “press release disguised as a bill.”
“My censure bill holds President Biden accountable for his actions – or lack thereof – at the border,” Boebert said in a news release. “The result of Biden’s mismanagement is staggering, and the numbers speak for themselves.”
The resolution accuses the administration of “usurpation of the legislative power of Congress” by not funding border wall construction and for a “failure” to execute laws required by the Constitution.
A censure does not remove a person from office, but indicates clear disapproval.
Boebert has introduced legislation related to immigration, including the No Amnesty Act and the Secure the Southern Border Act.
The bills intend to reinstate several of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies Biden reversed by executive order, such as building a wall at the southern border and the “Remain in Mexico” program, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for multiple years until their claims could be heard.
Boebert has been a frequent critic of Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as the “border czar.” Harris visited El Paso, Texas, and Guatemala in June.
“The real crisis at the southern border deserves real solutions, but all we’ve got from the Biden administration so far is Kamala laughing at the problem before she made a brief pit stop in Texas on the way to California,” Boebert wrote in a statement to The Durango Herald. “Enough is enough, which is why I introduced a censure bill to condemn the Biden regime’s colossal failure and introduced the No Amnesty Act and the Secure the Southern Border Act to do away with Biden’s failed leadership and reinstate President Trump’s proven border security measures.”
Enrique Orozco, community advocate at Compañeros Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center in Durango, said there are other issues Boebert should address in her district including drought.
Immigration stimulates the economy in Colorado, Orozco said, and many immigrants work in essential industries such as food service and hospitality.
“Without them, a lot of these industries would plummet. We’re seeing that right now with a lot of the restaurants having trouble hiring people,” Orozco said. “The only ones that really want to work are people in the immigrant community. So for her to spend her time attacking this community shows her disconnection with what is actually happening.”
Republicans attribute Biden’s policy reversals to a surge at the southern border, but there are other factors, said Douglas Rivlin, communications director at the immigration policy organization America’s Voice. Growing natural disasters, economic damage and corruption in Central America also contribute to the increase, he said.
Immigration is also lower than in mid-2019 under the Trump administration, Rivlin said. Border apprehensions decreased from April to May this year, as well, he said.
“The idea that the border is in a much different state now than it was under Trump in 2019 is just not true,” he said.
The uptick in unaccompanied minors also began in the last few months of the Trump administration, Rivlin said. Trump officials also delayed action in addressing the increase, Biden transition officials told NBC News in March.
“They were much more interested in setting up Biden for failure than for managing immigration,” Rivlin said. “They're much more interested in immigration as a political issue than they are as a policy issue.”
Eighty percent of people report they believe illegal immigration is a somewhat or very serious problem, according to a Harvard-Harris poll. Because of that public attitude, Montezuma County Republican Chairman Allen Maez said Boebert is “correct” in pushing the resolution forward.
“It’s one way to bring good, strong attention to the administration,” Maez said. “It impacts the country, it impacts our national security.”
But according to a study comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal immigrants and native-born U.S. citizens in Texas, immigration is not connected to crime. It was found U.S.-born citizens are over two times more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes and over four times more likely to be arrested for property crimes than undocumented immigrants, according to the study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Overstaying visas is a more pressing issue than border crossings, as well, Orozco said. From 2016 to 2017, 38% of undocumented immigrants crossed the border illegally and 62% of the newly undocumented overstayed their visas, according to a report by the Center for Migration Studies of New York.
“It’s a very small amount of people that actually walk across the U.S.-Mexico border to come in,” Orozco said.
Congress repeatedly refused to provide additional money to build the border wall while Trump was in office. Trump attempted to divert billions in military funding to build the wall. After Congress allotted $1.3 billion of the original $5.7 billion being sought for wall funding, Trump declared an emergency at the southern border to invoke the National Emergencies Act.
The diversion of funding was ruled unlawful by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Biden signed an executive order rescinding Trump’s emergency order and recently announced $2.2 billion diverted from military spending will be returned.
Alex Ogle, communications manager at Colorado Immigration Rights Organization, said the resolution to censure Biden is a “roadblock” and a distraction to immigration policy being passed at the federal level.
“This country has been built on immigration for centuries,” Ogle said. “And many of the same politicians who like to speak out against immigrants and demonize immigrants – they themselves are descendants of immigrants.”
When creating immigration policy, identifying the roots of surges in immigration and coming to bipartisan solutions is necessary, said LIBRE Initiative spokesman Israel Ortega. LIBRE is a nonprofit, grassroots organization aiming to empower Hispanic voices in the United States.
The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, a proposed bill, aims to address migration influxes at the southern border through increasing resources at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to better process asylum claims and protect unaccompanied minors.
“We readily admitted that this is not the bill that’s going to address everything that is wrong with our immigration system,” Ortega said. “There's a whole lot that needs to happen.”
Kaela Roeder is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a 2021 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.