United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today again sought to pass his “Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act” legislation, which would add large-scale drug smuggling as an additional basis for Title 42 expedited removal immigration authority, but Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) blocked the legislation, despite that Title 42 is scheduled to expire today depending on court action.
Hagerty spoke on the Senate floor about the national security and humanitarian crisis transpiring at the southern border and warned that once Title 42 ends, the already-record-breaking crisis will get far worse. Senate Democrats blocked this bill in April, and again in November, but given the new urgency of this week’s expiration date, Hagerty once again urged the Senate to take this commonsense step to preserve Title 42 authority. Border Patrol agents have repeatedly warned Hagerty that Title 42 is the last tool left for slowing down the record number of illegal border crossers and the fentanyl coming across our southern border and that, upon its expiration, there will likely be a completely unmanageable 15,000 to 18,000 illegal migrants crossing the border daily. Yet, Democrats refused to allow its passage for the third time this year.
Senator Hagerty’s remarks and the debate exchange may be found here. Text of his remarks is below.
Senator Hagerty: Last month, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the Department of Homeland Security could not continue to use Title 42 pandemic-related authority to expedite the removal of aliens who enter our country illegally, effective December 21st—today.
Though it’s been temporarily halted while the Supreme Court hears an emergency appeal, Title 42 is hanging by a thread. It is unconscionable for Congress to stand aside and do nothing to preserve it.
Title 42 authority was initially based on the pandemic. And while I agree that the pandemic is over, the border crisis is worse than ever. Whether to keep effective border security policies should not depend on the pandemic.
And there is a new epidemic plaguing our nation—one that demands immediate action. Deadly fentanyl—produced with the help of the Chinese Communist Party and smuggled across our southern border by drug cartels—has flooded our communities.
More than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in the last 12 months alone—most from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. It is the number-one cause of death for American adults ages 18 to 45.
The rise in fentanyl overdoses and deaths affects every state and congressional district. It kills the young and old, rich and poor, in cities and in small towns alike. It’s not a partisan issue, and finding a solution shouldn’t be either.
When I talk to Tennessee sheriffs, they tell me that fentanyl is becoming more and more lethal. How a so-called “bad batch” can kill dozens of people.
Once this deadly substance arrives in American communities, it’s too late. We’ve got to stop it before it crosses our borders.
That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that allows for use of Title 42 authority to stop the smuggling of illicit and lethal drugs like fentanyl.
When I traveled to the border in April, Border Patrol agents told me that the cartels use waves of illegal border crossings as cover to transport fentanyl and other deadly narcotics. While Border Patrol agents are focused on managing caravans of border crossers, the gap in coverage is exploited by smugglers. In many cases, these are well-planned and coordinated occurrences.
The agents told me, “the people don’t stay at the border and the drugs don’t either.”
Title 42 is the last tool Border Patrol has left to partially slow the ongoing tidal wave of illegal crossings. Without this tool, our Border Patrol agents will have no way to slow down the massive increase in illegal immigration—which will get worse as a result. Americans will pay the price.
That’s why, given the potential expiration of Title 42 within hours or days, passing my legislation today is imperative.
Letting Title 42 end, without creating a permanent new authority to replace it, empowers drug cartels. It enables them to send migrants across the border at strategic points, bogging down Border Patrol agents with processing—processing that takes five times longer without Title 42.
Cartels will then use the longer and more frequent enforcement gaps to move more fentanyl across our border. We cannot allow this to happen.
My legislation simply adds drug smuggling as an additional basis for using Title 42 authority. It’s called the “Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act.” It would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use Title 42 to combat substantial, dangerous drug trafficking across the border. It would give Border Patrol a necessary tool to stop drug traffickers.
The motion was objected to by Murray, who opposed providing this executive authority to save Americans from a tidal wave of illegal immigrants and fentanyl being trafficked across the border.
Senator Hagerty: Mr. President, I find it quite disheartening that, in the midst of a record border crisis—and during the week that both Title 42 is scheduled to expire and the Senate is taking up a massive “omnibus” bill—my colleagues across the aisle refuse to address this pending disaster.
More than 100,000 Americans are dying annually of drug overdoses—many of which result from fentanyl smuggling at the southern border.
This legislation simply provides discretionary authority to limit border crossings when necessary to combat substantial, dangerous illicit drug smuggling.
Even the Biden Administration is openly preparing for an already-record-breaking crisis to get far worse without Title 42.
Yet, my Democratic colleague can’t even agree to a commonsense policy to address this glaring problem.
Border Patrol agents predict daily crossings will roughly double to fifteen to eighteen thousand per day, which will be truly overwhelming.
How bad will this crisis have to get before Democrats will acknowledge it and work to stop it?
I yield the floor.