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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

3rd District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez co-introduces border bill

Bipartisan measure includes money for Ukraine military aid

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 16, 2024, 5:58pm

U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, co-introduced legislation Thursday that, if passed, would automatically reject migrants who legally or illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border without proper paperwork for one year and would restrict asylum with humanitarian exceptions.

The bipartisan Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act also blocks the use of federal funds to transfer migrants between detention centers or other locations unless it is for adjudicating their immigration case. It would also implement a version of a Trump-era policy that required migrants and asylum-seekers be turned back to Mexico to await their court hearings — previously dubbed the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

For a period of one year after the date of enactment, the bill would require the secretary of Homeland Security to reject any migrants entering the U.S. if the secretary determines it is necessary in order to achieve “operational control.”

The $66 billion national security package also includes $47.7 billion in aid to Ukraine, $10.4 billion for Israel, $4.9 billion for Taiwan and $2.4 billion for recent U.S. military operations in the Middle East to combat Iran-backed militias in the region.

Led by Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Jared Golden, D-Maine, the bill has six additional co-sponsors: three Republicans and three Democrats, including Perez.

“The number of migrants arriving at our southern border is creating a growing humanitarian crisis, and failure to assist our ally Ukraine in defending its sovereignty would threaten freedom across our globe,” Perez said in a news release Friday. “Today, I’m standing with my bipartisan colleagues to put forward a solution that reflects our values, protects democracy, and keeps our communities safe. And I look forward to working across the aisle with the speaker to bring this bipartisan measure to the House floor.”

The bill was crafted in response to House Republican leadership’s rejection of the U.S. Senate’s $118 billion border and foreign aid bill, which was shelved last week. The new proposal excludes humanitarian aid included in the failed Senate bill, including $10 billion for Palestinians and $9.5 billion in economic assistance to Ukraine, making it a “military-only” bill.

Republican Joe Kent of Yacolt, who is running for Perez’s 3rd Congressional District seat, lambasted the bill Friday in a livestream, saying, “it does nothing to secure our border,” and that “it leaves everything up to (the Department of Homeland Security) and the Border Patrol, which is completely and totally controlled by Joe Biden.”

He claimed the bill is not bipartisan, and it provides too much foreign aid — particularly to the Middle East and Ukraine — and that its high price tag would raise inflation.

“You look at the Republicans who have signed onto this, they are big defense hawks, all these guys want to do is make the military-industrial complex happy,” he said. “If we’re going to give countries foreign aid that need it, such as Israel, let’s have a discussion, let’s have a debate, let’s have a standalone bill. But nothing should be moving forward right now until our border gets secure.”

Republican Leslie Lewallen of Camas, who is also running to unseat Perez, also said border security and foreign aid do not belong in the same bill.

“Most Americans agree that we need to secure our border while also defending our allies,” she said. “However, any border bill that doesn’t stop the flow through some sort of physical or electronic barrier isn’t enough. Additionally, these need to be two separate bills. Keeping them bunched together is playing politics — on issues of such importance there should be a bipartisan majority willing to pass two clean bills that address the issues without adding in unnecessary and unrelated riders.”