January 5, 2024

Senator Ricketts’ Weekly Column: Fighting Biden’s Incompetence at the Border

January 5, 2024

The crisis at our nation’s southern border is unprecedented. It’s the worst it’s ever been in our country’s history. There have now been over 6.8 million encounters at the southern border since Joe Biden became President. This does not include the 1.8 million “gotaways” who were detected but not apprehended. There were 242,418 migrant encounters in November, the highest November total ever recorded.

December’s numbers may be even worse. On December 5, 2023, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported 12,000 encounters in one day. This is the highest daily total ever recorded. The highest ever monthly total is about 269,000. Some reports are indicating December numbers could be higher than 300,000 encounters in just one month. That would mean a population size greater than that of the City of Lincoln coming across our border in just one month. We have an urgent obligation to get these numbers under control.

Meanwhile, Mexico is failing to be a partner in solving this problem. Last month, Mexico stopped funding deportations. This made it easier for illegal immigrants to reach our border. Our southern neighbor has also not done enough to stop thousands of migrants from riding trains through Mexico to our border. American railroads like Union Pacific have taken great steps to deter and detect migrants on their trains. Mexican railroads like Ferromex have not. That must change.

Instead of making substantive policy changes to cut the increasing flow of illegal immigration, the Biden administration is making decisions that are directly harming Nebraskans. For example, last month President Biden’s team shut down the shipment of American-made goods to process thousands of migrants illegally crossing the border. On December 18, CBP suspended international railway crossings and rail operations in Eagle Pass and El Paso, Texas. CBP also suspended vehicle processing at locations in Arizona and California. I condemned this decision and led seven colleagues in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to re-open rail operations. I reiterated this position in phone calls to Secretary Mayorkas and two CBP commissioners.

CBP’s decisions directly and immediately impacted rail carriers’ ability to move goods. Mexico is Nebraska’s largest export partner. The success of our trade relationship relies on the successful operation of these crossings. U.S. goods and services trade with Mexico totaled an estimated $855 billion in 2022. Eagle Pass and El Paso accounted for 35.8% of all cross-border rail traffic to and from Mexico. In 2021, 89 percent of Nebraska’s corn exports went to Mexico. That’s $590.4 million worth of product. Nebraska farmers also exported $280.6 million worth of soybeans and soybean products to Mexico. According to Nebraska Farm Bureau, this move blocked as many as 60 trains or 10,000 rail cars per day. Farmers and ranchers depend on these trains to get their products to market.

On December 22, CBP announced the reopening of rail operations. While it’s good news, it would not have had to happen if President Biden had taken our border crisis more seriously. Union Pacific estimated the economic damage to businesses at more than $200 million per day. It’s simply unacceptable that American producers were forced to pay the price for the continued incompetence of President Biden and his administration.

To prevent the flood of illegal immigrants coming into our country, we need real policy changes. We need them quickly. The president must take responsibility and act. Mexico also needs to do its part by enforcing its immigration laws. In the weeks to come, the Senate will consider important government funding bills. My Republican colleagues and I will continue fighting for sanity and security at the border. I’m committed to fighting for the policy solutions we need to get our border crisis under control.

My team and I are here to serve you. Contact us anytime by phone at 202-224-4224 or on my website at www.ricketts.senate.gov/contact.