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FACT SHEET: House Republicans’ Record of Failure on Immigration Reform

Jan 8, 2024

This week, House Republicans are pushing forward with their bogus impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Instead of coming to the table with solutions to help fix our immigration system, Republicans are once again playing partisan, political games to harm President Biden and Democrats for purely political reasons while exacerbating the crisis at the border by rejecting President Biden’s proposals. 

Republicans’ abysmal record on immigration reform shows a clear pattern of failing to take action. They have sabotaged deal after deal on the border while refusing to provide oversight of Trump’s failed border policies. After decades of walking away from the issue and refusing to engage in meaningful debate over immigration policy, House Republicans have made it clear that they are more interested in scoring points with their MAGA base than actually reforming our country’s immigration system. Trump’s MAGA allies in Congress are following the Trump playbook once again, playing partisan political games to harm the Biden administration and hurt Democrats.

House Republicans Don’t Care About Solving Immigration or Fixing The Border. Republicans have refused to work with the Biden administration or even the Senate on immigration reform or border policy. They spent millions campaigning on border issues and putting on elaborate political stunts like sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard to critique policies imposed or exacerbated by the Trump administration. Now, the House GOP has all but refused to consider a bipartisan compromise on immigration between the Biden administration and the Senate. Instead of engaging and negotiating, Republicans are only using border policy as an endless crisis issue to campaign on.

TIMELINE: Republicans Have Spent Nearly Two Decades Walking Away From Immigration Reform and Refusing To Engage In Meaningful Policy Change. Congressional Republicans have wholeheartedly refused to act on immigration since passing the Secure Fence Act in 2006. Time and time again, Republicans have been unwilling to work towards comprehensive immigration reform, blocking comprehensive, bipartisan proposals:

  • 2023: House Republicans Voted Against Billions In Border Security Funding Just To Spite President Biden. House Republicans voted against border security funding in the FY22 and FY23 funding packages and a nearly $4.9 billion supplemental request for the border in December 2022. The FY23 government funding package that President Biden signed into law provided Border Patrol with $7.153 billion — a 17 percent increase from the year before. The funding package provided $65 million for 300 new Border Patrol agents, $60 million for 125 new personnel at points of entry; and $230 million for technology like autonomous surveillance towers. Some powerful House Republicans, like Oversight Committee Chair James Comer and Rep. Chip Roy, even called for extreme measures like cutting off all border security funding last year.
  • 2021: Republicans Refused To Engage In Immigration Reform Efforts, Blocking the Comprehensive, Bipartisan U.S. Citizenship Act and Scaled-Down Farm Workforce Modernization Act. In 2021, Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping immigration plan introduced as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would have modernized border security measures, improved technology to combat drug trafficking, provided work-related reforms for immigrants (both legal and undocumented), and provided a pathway to citizenship for tax-paying undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients. Republicans refused to engage with the reform plan, reportedly calling it a “nonstarter,” and a “tough sell.” In addition to blocking comprehensive reform, Senate Republicans also failed to consider a scaled-down reform bill providing temporary status for agricultural workers that passed the House with bipartisan support.
  • 2020: Republicans Refused To Update Their Platform On Immigration Policy, Upholding Years of Policy Failure By The Trump Administration. In 2020, the GOP refused to update their policy platform on immigration, passing a policy platform based on a single statement: “the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” Instead of working to reform the immigration system, Republicans chose to uphold the Trump administration’s failed border wall, inhumane family separation policies, uninhabitable holding conditions, a sharp rise in human rights abuses, and historic waste and mismanagement.
  • 2019: Senate Republicans Blocked A Bipartisan Immigration Reform Effort. In 2019, the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act, granting a pathway to permanent residence and temporary protection for undocumented immigrants, by a bipartisan margin. Even after a Republican Senator introduced a corresponding bill, Senate Republicans refused to consider it for debate.
  • 2018: The Republican-Controlled Senate Failed To Advance Bipartisan Immigration Reform Legislation. In 2018, the Republican-controlled Senate failed to pass a single act of legislation addressing immigration reform after the Trump administration rescinded DACA protections for undocumented immigrants. Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill introduced by a Democratic Senator and a Republican Senator providing a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children that also would have provided improved border security measures.
  • 2013: House Republicans Filibustered the Bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. In 2013, House Republicans refused to act on a painstakingly negotiated, comprehensive immigration bill that passed the Senate by a wide margin, 68-32, with bipartisan support. Republican Speaker John Boehner refused to grant the bill a floor vote, releasing a statement declaring, “We will not go to a conference with the Senate’s immigration bill.” The bill would have provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, increased the ranks of the border patrol by 40,000 agents, overhauled visas for entrepreneurs and lower skilled workers, and cut the federal deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars by 2023.
  • 2005: The Republican-Controlled Senate Refused To Vote on Bipartisan Immigration Reform Legislation. In 2005, a Republican and a Democratic Senator jointly introduced immigration reform legislation providing a pathway to citizenship and a six-year work visa for undocumented immigrants. The Republican-controlled Senate never took the bill up for a vote.

House Republicans Supported Trump’s Failed Border Policies and Refused to Provide Oversight Into Human Rights Abuses, Waste, and Mismanagement. For years, Republicans ignored oversight of the Trump administration’s disastrous border policies. In 2019, Customs and Border Protection declared a “humanitarian and national security border crisis,” and humanitarian organizations reported a sharp rise in human rights abuses during detention encounters as the administration mounted a failed response to the surge in border crossings. In spite of this, James Comer, Jim Jordan, and other MAGA Republicans opposed bipartisan efforts to investigate the policy of forced child separation along the southern border, including opposing subpoenas against Trump cabinet officials. House Republicans were virtually silent as evidence of waste and mismanagement at the border piled up, and Rep. Jordan instead took to Fox News to claim that Trump bore no responsibility for the crisis unfolding during his presidency.

  • House Republicans Opposed Bipartisan Oversight Efforts Into the Trump Administration’s Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Family Separation Policy. In February 2019, Republicans on the House Oversight Committee strongly opposed bipartisan efforts to investigate the policy of forced child separation along the southern border. 11 Republicans on the committee—including then-chairman Jim Jordan and current subcommittee chair Glen Grothmanvoted against issuing subpoenas and sent a letter urging the committee chair to reconsider subpoenas for former Attorney General William Barr, former Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.”
  • Republicans Supported the Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Child Separation Policy, Which Split Hundreds of Migrant Children From Their Families and Treated Them As Unaccompanied. Just months after Donald Trump was sworn-in, his administration worked to institute a “zero tolerance” policy for international migrants which resulted in children being separated from families and treated as unaccompanied children. Even those traveling with grandparents, adult siblings, and other immediate relatives became classified as “unaccompanied.” Hundreds of children were even taken from adults claiming to be their parents who lacked the particular documentation. As of 2023, hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children detained during the Trump administration—some as many as five years prior—haven’t been able to locate parents or legal guardians after being separated at the border. Even natural-born U.S. citizens separated from their parents at the border during the Trump administration have spent years in foster care as a result of the policy.
  • Republicans Turned A Blind Eye To the Trump Administration’s Inhumane Holding Conditions, Arguing That Unaccompanied Migrant Children Don’t Need Soap or Beds. In 2019, a U.S. district court ruled that the Trump administration had violated a Supreme Court order requiring the border patrol to hold children in “facilities that are safe and sanitary,” and rapidly transfer unaccompanied children to ORR custody within 72 hours of detention. Inspectors and reporters found that Trump’s border patrol was neglecting detained children, holding them for days or even weeks on end as a result of HHS shelters reaching capacity limits. Trump’s attorneys requested that a circuit court overturn the Supreme Court order, which required the government to “provide detainees with hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes in order to comply with the ‘safe and sanitary conditions’ requirement set forth in the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement.”
  • Amnesty International: Trump-Era “Industrial-Scale” Facilities For Unaccompanied Children Led To “Deplorable Outcomes.” In a 2019 report, Amnesty International concluded that Trump administration policies “led to deplorable outcomes violating the human rights of children, as well as adults, that were entirely avoidable, and a measure of political ill will toward the right to seek asylum, as enshrined in both US and international law.” A follow-up report described “industrial-scale” detainment facilities oriented towards “containment” instead of processing, concluding that they were not operated “in the best interests of the unaccompanied children housed there.