What are Republican candidates’ views on the border?

  • Migration from the southern border has been a topic of discussion for years
  • Migrant encounters fell since the end of Title 42 despite an expected surge
  • Still, border officials say they are overwhelmed by people crossing 

(NewsNation) — What’s happening along the U.S.-Mexico border right now, particularly the numbers of migrants coming into the country, is likely to be a divisive topic as it gets closer to the 2024 presidential election.

This year, a shift in policy — the end of Title 42, which allowed border officials to expel migrants on public health grounds — created fear that there would be a surge of people crossing the border.

However, that surge never happened — in fact, the number of migrant encounters being reported by officials has gone down.

Still, as lawmakers continue sparring over border issues such as staffing, people will be paying attention to what a growing number of GOP presidential candidates have to say about immigration.

Donald Trump

Throughout his tenure as president, Trump’s administration built hundreds of miles of fencing along the southern border. Most of it was installed in areas where smaller barriers already existed, and despite the former president’s claims that Mexico would pay for the wall, it was paid for by U.S. taxpayers.

Current Democratic President Joe Biden later signed an executive order halting construction of the wall.

Figures provided to U.S. News by Customs and Border Protection showed the Trump administration built 458 miles of its “border wall system,” consisting mostly of 18- to 30-foot steel bollards anchored in concrete. The vast majority of this barrier was constructed in places some kind of wall already existed, U.S. News points out, albeit these were less imposing than the new structure.

The wall garnered Trump much controversy among immigration activists and environmentalists and was subject to several lawsuits.

Trump-era policies included the “Migrant Protection Protocols,” or “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum seekers to wait for U.S. hearings in Mexico, as well as Title 42, which expired May 11.

Chris Christie

The former New Jersey governor, on ABC’s “This Week,” criticized Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in December on their immigration policies.

“(It’s) an ugly story for them. They have induced this problem,” Christie, an ABC contributor, said, adding their actions are “disgraceful.”

“Look, in the end, they have let this crisis get to the point where it is,” he said.

However, he has also mocked Trump’s stance, at one point delivering an impression of the southern border wall claims and saying the former president is more to blame than Biden, Reuters reported.

Christie, who was also a GOP contender for president in 2016, told CNN in 2015 that he stood by past comments he’s made saying immigrants should have a path to citizenship. Illegal immigration, he argued then, should be curbed by giving employers who hire undocumented persons with fines.

“We’ve got to penalize employers who hire people who are here illegally,” Christie said to CNN. “Because the fact is that that shouldn’t happen and it’s exploiting American workers. But in addition to that, it’s exploiting many of those people who are here illegally because they’re being paid less money.”

Back in 2015, Chrstie landed in hot water after proposing a “FedEx-style” tracking system for migrants who overstay their visas, according to CBS.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has called the border a “day one” priority for his administration. On the campaign trail he has promised to disallow asylum claims at the southern border and to make those with bona fide claims wait in Mexico until their case was heard.

He also said he would deputize state and local governments to enforce immigration laws and withhold federal funds from sanctuary jurisdictions. DeSantis also called for changes to the rules of engagement to allow border agents to repel those attempting to cross with use of force.

“A free society means that your borders are enforced. I don’t consider myself some citizen of the world,” DeSantis said. “I’m an American and being an American has to mean something.”

In May, DeSantis signed a sweeping bill into law, invalidating ID cards issued to “unauthorized migrants” and expanding E-Verify requirements for employers, among other provisions.

It also enhances penalties for human smuggling, and makes knowingly transporting five or more adult migrants, or a single minor, a second-degree felony subject to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years of prison.

DeSantis made national headlines after sending planes carrying migrants to “sanctuary destinations” including Martha’s Vineyard.

Most recently, dozens of migrants were sent to California on planes, an action Gov. Gavin Newsom accused DeSantis of organizing.

“You small, pathetic man,” Newsom wrote in a tweet where he also alluded to possible kidnapping charges for DeSantis. “This isn’t Martha’s Vineyard.”

Alecia Collins, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, confirmed to NewsNation the planes taking migrants to California were sent from their state, but claimed they volunteered to go through “verbal and written consent.”

When asked at a press conference earlier this month, DeSantis said he has “always supported” border walls, the New York Post reported.

Doug Burgum

As governor of North Dakota, Burgum signed a law to create an Office of Legal Immigration within the North Dakota Department of Commerce that will help businesses recruit and retain foreign labor.

“Working with the Legislature, we continue to pursue a comprehensive strategy to address North Dakota’s workforce challenges, and the Office of Legal Immigration will play an important role in those efforts by helping employers recruit and retain legal immigrants,” Burgum said.

However, he’s also taken the Biden administration to task in past statements, blaming them, as other GOP candidates have, for challenges at the southern border.

“The threat to national security grows every day that the Biden administration abdicates the responsibility of the federal government to secure our borders — failing to enforce existing immigration laws and failing to dedicate the resources needed to stop the tide of illegal immigration and drug trafficking that endangers lives in communities across our country,” Burgum said in a statement.

The North Dakota National Guard deployed two units to the southern border in the past two years, and on June 1, Burgum announced the state would deploy about 100 more to Texas.

“These additional military and law enforcement resources announced today will further strengthen efforts to secure the border and keep Americans safe,” Burgum said.

Nikki Haley 

As she was interviewed on “Face the Nation,” Haley touted South Carolina for passing what she called “one of the toughest immigration laws in the country” while she was governor. This legislation made E-verify mandatory for employers in the state, and directed police to check the immigration status of anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

As president, Haley said, she would make E-verify mandatory across the country and “defund sanctuary cities.”

“I would go back to remain in Mexico because no one wants to remain in Mexico, I would fire the 87,000 IRS agents that are going after middle America and put 25,000 Border Patrol and ICE agents on the ground,” she said.

At the same time, Haley said officials should not be “inhumane” on immigration, and does not believe migrant families should be separated at the border.

“I think there’s legal immigration that we can focus on at the same time, and I think that needs to be focused on, ‘What does our country need?'” she said. “Let’s do it by merit. Let’s do it by talent. Let’s do it based on what the businesses need. But let’s not do it just because people happen across the fence and get away. Let’s not do it because we have crowded facilities and we can’t hold anymore. That’s the wrong way to go about it.”

Asa Hutchinson

As Burgum has done, former Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson also sent National Guard troops to the southern border to assist with security.

Speaking to NewsNation on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports,” Hutchinson said if elected president, he would fund more resources to support border patrol, reform asylum laws and “go after the cartels.”

“The items that the Biden administration are trying to do now are two years too late. …We’ve got to start discouraging people from coming here for economic reasons,” Hutchinson said. “The visibility of our commitment to securing the border will discourage people from getting in that pipeline. Then you gotta put economic pressure on Mexico to cooperate with us in going after the cartels.”

He’s also pledged to loopholes around asylum laws and speed up the processing of migrants.

During his time as Arkansas governor, Hutchinson welcomed refugees from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover.

“Arkansas understands the American responsibility toward those families, those brave people that supported the United States of America in that mission and Arkansas would welcome them as part of the other states that are welcoming those that need a place of refuge,” Hutchinson said, according to NewsNation local affiliate KNWA.

Mike Pence 

The former vice president, who served under Trump, has called for Biden to re-implement policies from the previous administration.

Axios reports that policies Pence wants reinstated include: finishing the border wall; immediately deporting people living in the U.S. illegally who have committed crimes; barring the adoption of “sanctuary cities;” bringing back the “Remain in Mexico” policy; and keeping Title 42.

“We know it works because it worked. I was there, standing shoulder to shoulder with President Trump,” Pence said, according to Axios.

While vice president, Pence defended Trump’s immigration policies, once issuing a warning to migrants: “If you can’t come legally, don’t come at all,” ABC reported in 2018.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Businessman Ramaswamy said he plans to deploy the U.S. military to protect the border if elected, and that he wants to “annihilate” Mexican drug cartels, as “that’s how you end the fentanyl crisis.”

“I refuse to be a passive buffoon who sits in the White House simply watching it happen: we’re going to finally solve this problem,” he wrote on Twitter.

Describing himself as the child of immigrants, Ramaswamy called for eliminating lottery-based migration policies in favor of meritocratic admission.

Speaking at an event with Winnipesaukee Republicans, Ramaswamy said he wants to open up a path to legal immigration if they meet three criteria: they’re following the law, “that they’re going to make contributions to this country, and they make a civic commitment to this country by demonstrating knowledge.”

However, he still does not think amnesty is the right answer, adding that officials “have to deport universally as humanely as we can.”

“We have to stand behind the fact that we are a nation of laws built on the rule of law. That is something we cannot compromise on,” Ramaswamy said.

Tim Scott 

One piece of legislation the South Carolina senator recently introduced redirects funds away from the IRS and toward border wall construction, along with other technology.

S.312, or the “Securing our Border Act” allocates $15 billion that would have been used to hire IRS agents to instead improve border security and enforcement, as well as other measures.

Another piece of legislation Scott has proposed would allow for a similar Title 42 public health policy but in response to the fentanyl crisis rather than COVID-19.

He joined other Republican lawmakers in supporting the “Stop Dangerous Sanctuary Cities Act,” which would allow local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and pull taxpayer-funded grants to sanctuary cities. 

“Sanctuary cities have emboldened criminals and endangered American citizens, and it is wrong that our taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill for this reprehensible policy,” Scott said in a statement.

According to NBC, Scott has said building the border wall will provide more surveillance, to stop fentanyl from crossing to the U.S.

“Closing that southern border saves perhaps tens of thousands of American lives,” he told NBC News.

At the same time, Scott has criticized the Biden administration over a report on immigrants being separated from their families at the border, NBC reports.

He’s also said that a “permanent, compassionate solution for DACA recipients” is needed.

Andrew Dorn contributed to this report.


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