Amid the rapidly escalating crisis along the southern border, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) today was among 40 Republican U.S. senators, led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, who sent a letter to GAO Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro highlighting President Biden’s suspension of border wall funding and construction without lawful justification, as required by the Impoundment Control Act.
“On January 20th, in one of the first official acts of his presidency, Joseph Biden suspended border wall construction and ordered a freeze of funds provided by Congress for that purpose,” the senators wrote. “In the weeks that followed, operational control of our southern border was compromised and a humanitarian and national security crisis has ensued. The President’s actions directly contributed to this unfortunate, yet entirely avoidable, scenario. They are also a blatant violation of federal law and infringe on Congress’s constitutional power of the purse.
The senators continued, “We write regarding these actions. We believe they violated the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), as interpreted by your office, and we request your legal opinion on the matter. Prompt action to end these violations is required to restore order at the border.”
Due to efforts by the Trump administration to secure the southern border with new infrastructure, illegal crossings in the Yuma Sector decreased by 87 percent from Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) to FY20 in areas with new border wall system. In the Rio Grande Valley Zone 1, an area that did not previously have border infrastructure, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) saw a 79 percent decrease in apprehensions and a 26 percent decrease in narcotics seizures after completion of the border wall. Additionally, in El Paso Zone 14 and 15, CBP saw 60 percent and 81 percent decreases in apprehensions, respectively, when comparing the second half of FY20 to the first half of FY20.
Since President Biden’s election in November 2020, CBP numbers have increased significantly. In February 2021, CBP had 100,441 border encounters, amounting to a 39 percent increase from 71,946 encounters in October 2020 and a 173 percent increase from the 36,687 encounters in February 2020 – just one year prior. Additionally, there have been 325,012 border encounters since November 2020, while there were only 220,563 in the four months prior – a 68 percent increase.
Currently, CBP is overwhelmed and overcapacity. Reports indicate that nearly all border patrol sectors are above 100 percent capacity, with some sectors double, triple, or even at significantly higher levels of overcapacity.
The letter was also signed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), as well as Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), John Hoeven (R-N), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), John Kennedy (R-LA), James Lankford (R-OK), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Jim Risch (R-ID), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Thune (R-SD), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Todd Young (R-IN).