COMPASS: Border Crisis Returns To Washington

May 21st, 2024

Good afternoon from Capitol Hill.

The House and Senate are both in session this week, hurtling toward next week’s highly coveted Memorial Day recess.

Both sides will take on the crisis at the southern border this week – though from different angles. In the House, the chamber will vote on legislation to bar illegal aliens from voting in local elections in the District of Columbia. The corporate media is trying to condemn the vote as redundant and unnecessary because “it’s already illegal” for non-citizens to vote in federal elections. 

However, federal law does not prohibit noncitizens from casting ballots in state or local elections. While no state currently allows noncitizens to vote in statewide elections, three states and Washington, DC, have municipalities that allow noncitizens to vote in local elections – California, Maryland, and Vermont. In 2021, New York City enacted a law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections, which was later ruled unconstitutional by state courts. The bill under consideration by the House this week, in addition to clarifying that noncitizens may not vote, repeals a law that DC passed in 2022 allowing noncitizens to vote. 

Rep. Chip Roy and Sen. Mike Lee have introduced the Safeguard American Voter Eligibility (SAVE) Act to ensure that only U.S. citizens vote in federal elections by requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration. (For more on this, see excerpts from The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky’s recent testimony before the House Administration Committee on May 16.) 

While noncitizens voting in federal elections is illegal, it’s difficult to enforce unless or until an investigation is launched after the fact. In most states, registering to vote requires simply checking the box for “US citizen” and then casting a ballot. The SAVE Act is designed to prevent noncitizen voting by requiring actual proof of citizenship. Put another way – crossing the southern border is also illegal, but without the necessary prevention at the outset, millions of people do it anyway.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is resurrecting the so-called “bipartisan border bill” that failed to pass the chamber in February. The bill, you may recall, was negotiated by three senators. Two Democrats, Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and one Republican, Sen. James Lankford. Over the winter, the bill failed to muster the support of more than four members of the GOP conference for the simple fact that it did nothing to solve the crisis at the border – and arguably made it worse.

As the Immigration Accountability Project pointed out to Fox News, the bill gave immediate work permits to every illegal alien released from custody, increased green cards by 50,000 a year, and allowed 5,000 migrants a day to enter the United States. As Sen. Murphy said at the time while trying to sell the bill to his Democratic colleagues, under this legislation “the border never closes.” Because that’s what you want in your “border security” bill – keeping the border wide open!

If Senate Democrats want to explain why they are again insisting the Senate pass a bill that allows up to 5,000 crossers a day in the middle of the greatest border crisis in decades, they’re welcome to try. Republican House leaders, after declaring the bill would be dead on arrival if it made it across the Capitol, had this to say:

“Since the beginning of this Congress, the House has passed multiple pieces of bipartisan legislation to secure the border and deport criminal illegal immigrants, including the Laken Riley Act. All of them have been blocked by Schumer and Senate Democrats. The Secure the Border Act (H.R.2), which would end the border catastrophe by resuming construction of the border wall, ending the exploitation of parole, reinstating Remain in Mexico, and ending catch-and-release, has also been collecting dust on Schumer’s desk for over a year. If Senate Democrats were actually serious about solving the problem and ending the border catastrophe, they would bring up H.R. 2 and pass it this week.”

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The American Accountability Foundation and the Immigration Accountability Project were among the winners of The Heritage Foundation’s 2024 Innovation Prize.