Wait ‘til next year to deal with border catastrophe


INDIANAPOLIS ­— After her second trip to the U.S.-Mexican border in a year, U.S. Rep. Erin Houchin called the sieve of humanity trying to secure the American dream the easy and illegal way “catastrophic” and “unsustainable.”

The freshman Republican from Salem visited Eagle Pass, Texas, with Speaker Mike Johnson and more than 50 of her colleagues in January, telling Brian Kilmeade of Fox News, “The American people know the border is not secure. I visited the border last March. It wasn’t secure then; it’s not secure now. The problem is much, much worse, not better.”

And Houchin is right. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in 2000 there were more than 1.5 million border apprehensions. They began falling to fewer than 500,000 a year in 2010 under President Obama’s administration. They spiked to more than 700,000 in 2019 under President Trump and dipped the next year during the pandemic. Then the flood gates opened. After President Biden took office, there were 1.66 million apprehensions in 2021, 2.21 million in 2022 and 2.05 million in 2023.

Even worse, Houchin added, “People on the terror watchlist are showing up at the processing centers and going through the process. Those people are detained, but we believe they are reporting back what that process is like to gain intelligence. It’s really a catastrophic emergency we need to address immediately. We’ve been calling on the administration to do this for seven months now.”

Last August, when I interviewed Houchin at the Hard Truth Distillery in Nashville, I noted that Republicans and Democrats haven’t found immigration solutions over the past generation. The last comprehensive immigration reform came in 1986, signed by President Reagan. That was before the internet, before future Vice President Al Gore began warning us about climate change as an “inconvenient truth,” before the gang proliferation and political instability in Latin America was exacerbated by rising temperatures and drought. Instead of solutions, both parties use the immigration boogeyman to gin up the partisan divide and raise campaign funds.

“Both parties have gotten into their corners,” Houchin said at Hard Truth. “The border — I’ve been there and seen it firsthand — is absolutely insecure. Border Patrol is begging for assistance. We’ve seen a flood of migrants come in. That’s an issue.

“It creates this logjam,” she said.

Kilmeade told Houchin, “My hope is they come up with some type of deal. You guys have the leverage to get something done because they want the war funding. I hope you use it and I hope you get it for the good of the country,” he said. “You would actually help Joe Biden’s reelection if you did that.”

After her visit to Eagle Pass, I wanted to speak with Houchin. Part of the persistent Republican lament was the mainstream media was ignoring the issue and was giving Biden a pass (I last wrote about the issue in September). I planned to ask her what she believed the strategy should be, what the solutions should be. An interview was scheduled, and then — poof! — no go.


Last week, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald J. Trump blew up the deal.

“As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open-borders betrayal of America,” Trump said in Nevada on Jan. 27. “I’ll fight it all the way. A lot of the senators are trying to say, respectfully, they’re blaming it on me. I say, that’s OK. Please blame it on me. Please.”

“That, I think, is going to weigh in heavily,” said Sen. Mike Braun, who’s running a TV ad for his gubernatorial campaign saying he, too, has been to the border and come up with “solutions.”

A recent Economist/YouGov Poll found immigration the second most important issue, with 31% approving of Biden’s handling and 62% disapproving.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young called Trump’s move “tragic,” adding, “I hope no one is trying to take this away for campaign purposes.”

Sen. Lankford, the lead negotiator (and an ardent conservative), told CBS’s Face the Nation on Jan. 28, “Right now, they’re all functioning off of internet rumors of what’s in the bill, and many of them are false.”

As for Trump, Lankford said, “Even while he was president, he was specifically asking Congress to change the standard on asylum to be able to tighten up, to be able to give them additional funds for deportation. All of those things are in this bill. So if he were to be president, this would be new authorities that he had actually asked for when he was president before.”

For having the audacity to lead the negotiations with Senate Democrats, Lankford was censured by the Oklahoma Republican Party on Jan. 27, according to Axios.

Houchin told me last August, “I cannot overstate the crisis level at the border,” Houchin said. “If the president and vice president had seen and talked to people like I did, they would declare it a national emergency.”

The United States is facing a “catastrophic” and “unsustainable crisis” at the border. Terrorists and fentanyl are said to be flooding in. In the face of that predicament, our politics of the day is adopting an old Brooklyn Dodger lament: “Wait ‘til next year.”

Do you suppose terrorists will adapt to our political schedule?


Brian Howey is senior writer and columnist for Howey Politics Indiana/State Affairs. Find Howey on Facebook and X @hwypol.