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Hall and Nesbitt visit southern border as part of GOP immigration attacks on Dems


Hall and Nesbitt visit southern border as part of GOP immigration attacks on Dems

Apr 16, 2024 | 7:40 am ET
By Jon King
Hall and Nesbitt visit southern border as part of GOP immigration attacks on Dems
House Minority Leader Matt Hall and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt discuss the border crisis with Texas law enforcement involved in Operation Lone Star on stand in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Friday, April 12, 2024 | House GOP photo

Republican leaders in the Michigan House and Senate became the latest legislative delegation to visit the U.S. southern border.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) say they visited Eagle Pass, Texas, last week along the border with Mexico where they said they observed National Guard units from Texas and other states combat a border crisis they say “has surged on [President] Joe Biden’s watch.”

A press release said they were joined by officials from other states, met with Texas officials and “witnessed illegal aliens attempting to cross the border away from ports of entry.” The release included photos of Hall and Nesbitt interacting with border patrol officials and no other people visible. A Hall spokesman also sent the Advance a five-second aerial video allegedly showing an illegal border crossing.

Hall and Nesbitt noted the Biden administration discontinuing the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy utilized by former President Donald Trump. The policy, formally called the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), allowed U.S. officials to return to Mexico anyone arriving by land while their removal proceedings were pending. Implemented by the Trump administration in 2019, it was applied only to a small fraction of overall border crossers, but remains a key talking point for the GOP this election.

“In Texas, I witnessed the immigration crisis firsthand,” said Hall. “Illegal aliens are pouring over our borders since Biden undid the successful Remain in Mexico policy, and his mistake is now letting illegal aliens exploit the asylum process to stay in the country for years on end.” 

The program was criticized by human rights groups who said it violated “U.S. law and international treaty obligations, denies refugee protection to people fleeing persecution and torture, and has resulted in widespread human rights violations against asylum-seekers physically present in Mexico while awaiting their U.S. immigration court proceedings.”

Biden also argued the policy required complicated negotiations with Mexico and that as president, foreign policy authority rested solely with him, an opinion which was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022. Additionally, the Mexican government indicated last year it would “reject” any effort to restart the program.

Hall criticized the discontinuation of MPP, as well as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Newcomer Rental Subsidy program, which provides “Refugees and other Newcomer population-eligible households with rental assistance up to $500 per month for up to 12 months, with eligibility based on immigration status and household income.”

“In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer is trying to talk tough while using taxpayer-funded aid to encourage these very illegal aliens,” he said. “First she offered them rent assistance, and now she’s hoping to pay attorneys to help them obstruct deportation. Vigilant National Guard troops from other states are tirelessly confronting the illegal immigration crisis even as Joe Biden refuses to keep our country safe.”

The reference to attorney fees concerned a proposed $8 million appropriation by the Whitmer administration in next year’s budget to fund legal services for asylum seekers in immigration proceedings. However, as the article that the Hall and Nesbitt release links to on the subject makes clear, asylum “is a legal form of protection that allows immigrants to live in the United States if they fear persecution in their home country, according to the UN Refugee Agency.” 

The press release also links to another article that notes only about 30% of asylum applications are approved, but that same article goes on to note that a lack of legal representation is one of the factors in those claims being denied despite evidence that asylum might have been warranted.

Rep. Scholten says ‘horrific’ conditions at southern border not helped by ‘do-nothing’ votes

Gongwer reports that Whitmer was asked by a reporter Monday in Grand Rapids about her stance on undocumented people getting access to state assistance, but she was not specifically asked about the Newcomer Rental Subsidy program.

“I know that we’ve got to reform immigration in this country. There is no question about that. It’s important that we do it in a responsible way because our economy relies [on those individuals]. That is the greatest strength of our state and country,” Whitmer said, according to Gongwer. “And yet, the system that we do have is not working. I will say that Global Michigan has done great work under the Trump administration and the Biden administration.”

When asked again, Whitmer said: “If you are here illegally, I do not believe you should have access.”

Hall and Nesbitt’s trip follows a similar venture in February by four GOP House members of the Freedom CaucusReps. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), Matt Maddock (R-Milford), James DeSana (R-Carleton) and Neil Friske (R-Petoskey) — who called for Whitmer to deploy National Guard units to help stop what they referred to as “sabotage” of the nation’s borders. 

Also in February, U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten (D-Grand Rapids), joined an eight-person congressional delegation for a two-day trip to the southern border and heard from local leaders and U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) officials about the ongoing immigration crisis and what resources would best help deal with it.