WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Senate Republicans put their opposition to President Joe Biden’s border policy on full display on Wednesday, with a symbolic show of their own legislation aimed at pressuring the White House to change course on its handling of migrants.
Republicans blame a surge of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, including unaccompanied children, on Democrat Biden’s decision to reverse former President Donald Trump’s policies to deport illegal immigrants, keep asylum seekers in Mexico and complete construction of a border wall.
Over the course of a few hours, Republican lawmakers tried to pass at least five initiatives on the Senate floor including a resolution labeling the border situation a “crisis” – a term that Biden avoids – only to be blocked by Democrats, who control the Senate.
“This is a crisis. It is part of an amnesty agenda that started the day that President Biden took office. He turned on the green light and said, ‘Come to America’,” Senator John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told reporters at a press conference.
Barrasso and 17 other Republican senators will travel to the border region late on Thursday for a visit that will include a midnight patrol with U.S. border officials.
A sharp rise in the number of migrants fleeing violence, natural disasters and economic hardship in Central America is testing Biden’s commitment to a more humane immigration policy than Trump’s.
Republicans say the border issue could help them win back control of the Senate and House of Representatives in the 2022 elections by increasing their hopes of picking up Democratic seats in Arizona and Nevada.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans also sought unanimous consent for initiatives that would increase protections for children, tighten rules for asylum seekers, subject migrants accused of violent crimes to detention and require DNA tests for undocumented adults claiming to be related to migrant children.
The effort was blocked each time by Democrats, who denounced it as a cynical attempt to gain political advantage by casting migrants as inherently criminal and ignoring the need for more comprehensive immigration reforms.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, John Stonestreet and Grant McCool)