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Johnson throws cold water on border deal

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House Speaker Mike Johnson on Saturday called on President Joe Biden to unilaterally take action on immigration reform instead of waiting for congressional intervention.

“President Biden falsely claimed yesterday he needs Congress to pass a new law to allow him to close the southern border, but he knows that is untrue,” the GOP speaker wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “As I explained to him in a letter late last year, and have specifically reiterated to him on multiple occasions since, he can and must take executive action immediately to reverse the catastrophe he has created.”

Johnson and other conservatives criticize the emerging immigration deal for still allowing too many border crossings; he said in his statement it “would expressly allow as many as 150,000 illegal crossings each month.” Yet the bill’s advocates say that the actual amount of illegal crossings would be much lower and that the proposal does not greenlight such a number.

The Department of Homeland Security would be required to shut down illegal crossings if the daily average of encounters surpasses 5,000 migrants or if a one-day total surpasses 8,500. DHS would have the authority to shut the border down at 4,000 encounters per day, however, and Biden has signaled he would aggressively use that authority.

Once the mandatory shutdown is enforced, it would take two weeks of starkly lower illegal crossings (about 2,000) to reopen the border to crossings other than asylum appointments at ports of entry. As a result of high illegal crossing numbers, the border shutdown could continue for weeks or months until the situation numbers go down.

“This is the valve to manage the overwhelming numbers of illegal crossings. It allows immediate operational control of the border. It does not allow 5,000 migrants to enter the country a day,” said a person familiar with the details.

Johnson’s message came on the heels of Biden’s Friday exhortation of Congress to pass a bipartisan law addressing immigration at the southern border. Biden’s statement marked the strongest stance his administration has taken on immigration policy yet.

“What’s been negotiated would — if passed into law — be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” Biden said in a statement. “It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

In a Friday letter to senators negotiating on the border deal, Johnson wrote that even if the bipartisan deal passed through the Senate, it would be “dead on arrival” in the House.

In his Saturday message to Biden, Johnson cited Title 8 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as an Oct. 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court, which he claimed already gave the president “ample authority” to restrict entry of illegal immigrants.

Referencing a letter he wrote to Biden last month, the speaker reiterated his call for the Biden administration to begin instituting measures to “secure the border” now, including recommencing construction of the notorious border wall that former President Donald Trump began during his term.

“President Biden can begin to secure the border by ending catch-and-release, ceasing exploitation of parole authority, reinstating the Remain in Mexico program, expanding the use of expedited removal authority, and renewing construction of the border wall.”

Trump also addressed the border deal Saturday, saying “A bad border deal is far worse than no border deal.”