Sen. James Lankford pushed back at his fellow Republicans for reproving the border security package he helped negotiate, insinuating that the 2024 election is a motivating factor.
Lankford (R-Okla.) helped broker the deal alongside Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). Former President Donald Trump has urged Republicans to tank the agreement.
“It is interesting Republicans four months ago, would not give funding for Ukraine, for Israel, and for our southern border, because we demanded changes in policy,” Lankford said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“A few months later, when we’re finally getting to the end, they’re like, ‘Oh, just kidding, I actually don’t want [a] change in law because of the presidential election year.’ We all have an oath to the Constitution.”
The exact text of the deal hasn’t been fully finalized but leaked portions show it would create an authority to automatically reject migrants trying to cross the border when crossings eclipse 5,000 a day, a source told The Post.
President Biden has backed the plan and pledged to use that power on the day he hypothetically signs the compromise legislation into law.
Prominent Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) have bristled at that figure, chiding that it “normalizes 5,000 people a day coming in,” which is around 1.8 million people a year.
“It’s definitely not going to let a bunch of people in. It’s focused on actually turning people around,” Lankford shot back. “This is not about letting 5,000 people in a day. This is the most misunderstood section of this proposal.”
“This is set up for if you have a rush of people coming at the border, the border closes down — no one gets in,” he added.
Currently, a rush of migrants typically arrive at the border and declare asylum. They are then often given a court date, in a massively backlogged system, and then released onto US soil.
Under the rumored details of the border agreement, even most asylum seekers would be cut off from entry when crossings reach the key threshold.
Another grievance from some Republicans is provisions to expand immigrant visas to 50,000 annually and retool the work visa process for select migrants within 180 days of their release from Customs and Border Protection.
“The only people that are getting a work permit coming through this process are the people that have gone through a strenuous evaluation, have been evaluated, [and] are likely [to get] asylum,” Lankford said.
“That’s a fraction of the people that go through the process.”
Trump has come out aggressively against the deal, positing that “a bad border deal is far worse than no border deal.”
Lankford further underscored that the pact features “tools that even the Trump administration was looking for” when he was president.
“I don’t know of anyone that believes that if President Trump was elected when he was president right now, this border would not have this problem,” he added.
Recently, the Oklahoma Republican Party voted to condemn Lankford for his role in the border negotiation.
Fellow negotiator Murphy clarified Sunday that an agreement on the border has been reached, but that the text is still being finalized.
“The question is whether Republicans are going to listen to Donald Trump,” Murphy told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “He thinks it’s a winning political issue for him.”
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) told his colleagues last week that if the deal clears the Senate, it would be “dead on arrival” in the House of Representatives.
During fiscal year 2023, a record-breaking 2,475,669 migrant encounters were recorded along the Mexico frontier, according to US Customs and Border Protection.
Preliminary data indicate over 300,000 migrant encounters were recorded in December.