In August alone, Customs and Border Protection encountered more than 208,000 people attempting to enter the U.S. illegally—an increase of 318% during the same exact time just one year ago. And the harsh reality is the situation shows no signs of improving.
Earlier this week, I led a congressional delegation mission to Panama and Colombia where one of the most pressing issues I heard about from leaders in Central and South America was the number of migrants making the dangerous trek to our southern border. In a roundtable with Colombian Migration Agency Director Juan Francisco Espinosa, we heard about the challenges they are facing due to the over 9,000 migrants stranded in the country amid a surge of people passing through on their way to United States-Mexico border, and the amount of drug trafficking that takes place as a result of the influx of migrants.
By the end of the year, the U.S. is expected to see more than 2.3 million people attempt to illegally cross our southern border. These numbers are staggering.
From President Biden’s immediate reversal of the former administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy—which the Supreme Court has ruled he must reinstate and the administration is ignoring—to their refusal to rebuild the wall, misstep after misstep is fueling an increasingly disastrous and dangerous situation.
There is no question that our immigration system right now, under the Biden Administration, is being pushed to its limits, all by crises they created.
Because of this, we know folks are going to try to take advantage of the strained immigration system, and we need to ensure we have laws on the books to keep dangerous people out of our country.
Right now, our laws don’t effectively target those who have been convicted of sexual assault and sexual violence. And tragically, we’ve seen horrific crimes committed by those trying to take advantage of our immigration system, including horrendous things like sex trafficking, forced marriage, and even female genital mutilation. Immigrant women in particular have significantly increased vulnerability to recurring sexual assault.
The bottom line is that predatory sexual violence cannot continue to go unchecked in our immigration system. We need to make a change. That’s why I’ve put forward a bill to block convicted sexual predators from immigrating to the United States. The Better Enforcement of Grievous Offenses by un-Naturalized Emigrants Act, or the BE GONE Act, simply makes “sexual assault and aggravated sexual violence” a disqualifying act for those seeking entry. It gives our law enforcement the ability to deport those who have been convicted of sexual violent crimes or sexual assault and are trying to immigrate here.
This is a commonsense, urgently-needed solution to modernize our immigration policies and combat sexual violence and those seeking to exploit our laws. I’m proud to have support on this legislation from over a dozen of my friends and colleagues in the Senate, including Iowa’s senior senator, Chuck Grassley.
Because of the Biden Administration’s policies, every state is now a border state. Iowa sees the effects of a porous border, from drug trafficking to human trafficking, and the overwhelming national security threat these reckless policies have created. There are steps the president and Congress could take right now to start addressing the crisis. I encourage them to start with something easy—pass and sign into law my BE GONE Act and ensure sexual predators and those who are convicted of sexual crimes stay out or get out.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate