House Republicans this week passed a bill that would resume construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and revert back to the immigration policies of former President Donald Trump.
Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, a Republican who represents parts of South Florida, is the lead sponsor of the legislation that passed the chamber just before the end of Title 42, a public health rule allowing quick expulsion of migrants at the border.
The bill approved by the House on Thursday is called the Secure the Border Act. Democrats are denouncing it as cruel, but GOP House members say it would provide order on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Díaz-Balart says the bill reflects the House GOP's "Commitment to America," a platform presented by the conference ahead of last year's midterm elections.
"One of the things that we said we're gonna do is we're gonna secure the border, we're going to confront the cartels — these narco cartels — we're going to bring back the rule of law to the southern border and to the process itself," Díaz-Balart said in an interview with Spectrum News.
According to a summary, the bill would boost the number of border patrol agents, resume border wall construction, further restricts asylum, allows the U.S. to deport immigrants to countries other than their home and authorizes officers to allow unaccompanied minors to withdraw their applications to enter the country.
All of Florida's GOP representatives voted in favor of it, including Rep. Carlos Giménez, who fled Cuba as a child.
"I, too, am an exile," Giménez said on the House floor Thursday. "I, too, am an immigrant. We have legal processes, all already in place, for people to immigrate to America legally and to solicit political asylum legally. But what the Biden administration is doing is offensive, cruel, and inhumane. Lethal fentanyl is flooding our border, killing nearly 100,000 Americans every single year."
Florida Democrats are condemning the bill, calling it the "Child Deportation Act."
"This effort will rip apart families, dismantle due process, and expose children to abuse and trafficking. This bill goes further than simply demolishing legal pathways that the president has put in place. It strips back critical safeguards that protect the safety and well-being of unaccompanied minors," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said.
With the end of Title 42, the Biden administration has launched a digital campaign to alert migrants that those who do not use a lawful pathway will now face "tougher consequences," including a five-year ban on re-entry.
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Florida says the president has "stepped up" when it comes to preparing for the end of the pandemic-era policy.
"He put together a parole program to work with countries that were seeing a lot of immigration from, like Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua," Soto said at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus press conference. "And, he sent 1,500 troops to the border. In this moment of need, do Republicans step up in a bipartisan fashion to present a serious set of solutions to help the president? Of course not."
Biden has said he would veto the House GOP bill. Republicans say it's in the Democrats' hands to come up with solutions.
"The Senate, as opposed to complaining, the Democrats, as opposed to complaining, what are they willing to do? What are they willing to pass?" said Díaz-Balart.