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Republican lawmakers who oppose a new bipartisan Senate immigration bill are using the words of one of the bill’s sponsors to bolster their opposition.
During a Feb. 6 news conference, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., held up an X post, blown up on a poster board, written by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
"You can see this with Chris Murphy's tweet," Scott said, pointing to the board for the cameras. One line was highlighted: "The border never closes."
"Chris Murphy was very candid," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said during the same press conference. "You know, they say in Washington a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth. Well there you go, Chris Murphy: ‘the border never closes’ the Democrats' opening position is, ‘We will not close the border.’"
What did Murphy mean?
On Feb. 4, the day the bill was released, Murphy posted a thread on X explaining the legislation. One post said: "A requirement the President to funnel asylum claims to the land ports of entry when more than 5,000 people cross a day. The border never closes, but claims must be processed at the ports. This allows for a more orderly, humane asylum processing system."
PolitiFact has fact-checked, and rated False, claims that the bill allows 5,000 migrants to enter illegally every day. The legislation gives the Biden administration the Biden administration emergency authority to bar most asylum seekers if border officials record an average of 5,000 encounters a day. Encounters, however, track the number of times officials stop people trying to enter, not the number of people released into the country.
Murphy worked to clarify what he meant when he said the border "never" closes in a subsequent post, replying to Cruz, who had said Murphy was bragging about the bill being an "open borders victory."
Murphy wrote: "Uh there's $2 BILLION a day in trade that crosses the border. Our economy would die if we ‘closed the border.’ We should control the border (which our bill does), not close it."
Murphy’s press office told PolitiFact that the bill’s border emergency authority would not affect trade and lawful international travel for U.S. citizens and authorized residents and that ports of entry would remain open for asylum seekers.
The bill’s "emergency authority" provision allows the president and Homeland Security secretary to suspend asylum for those crossing illegally into the U.S. between ports of entry.
But it preserves access for people to apply for asylum at official ports of entry, such as international airports, seaports and road and rail crossing on a land border, with a cap of 1,400 applications per day. Migrants currently have this option, but because these locations typically have limited space and require appointments with long backlogs, many try to cross into the U.S. illegally between ports of entry.
Meanwhile, the authority’s effectiveness would still hinge on available resources and Mexico’s cooperation accepting non-Mexican nationals deported by the U.S., experts previously told PolitiFact.
"Given the limited avenues for lawful admission into the United States, there will always be some noncitizens who seek to enter unlawfully,’" said Kevin Johnson, dean at the University of California’s school of law. "Absent extreme measures (such as those employed in the old East Germany to halt efforts to leave the country) that are inconsistent with our values and Constitution, the border cannot simply be shut down."
PolitiFact previously reported that current immigration law enables presidents to stop entries. But that same law also says that people can come to U.S. borders and ask for asylum, even if they enter without authorization.
Immigration experts said that although the president's power is broad, it can’t be used to override other parts of immigration law.
PolitiFact Staff Writer Maria Ramirez Uribe contributed to this report.
Sen. Rick Scott press conference, Feb. 6, 2024
X post by Sen. Chris Murphy, Feb. 4, 2024
X post by Sen. Chris Murphy, Feb. 5, 2024
Senate.gov, H.R. 815
Bipartisan Policy Center, Claiming Asylum in the United States, Accessed Feb. 7, 2024
PolitiFact, No, the Senate immigration bill does not allow 5,000 people to illegally enter the U.S. daily, Feb. 5, 2024
PolitiFact, Ask PolitiFact: Can Joe Biden ‘shut down the border’ on his own?, Feb. 2, 2024
PolitiFact, Key facts about immigration data: What it can and can’t tell us about border policies, Jan. 3, 2024
U.S. News, GOP Says Biden Has All the Power He Needs to Control the Border. the Reality Is Far More Complicated, Feb. 6, 2024
Murphy/Senate.gov, Murphy: We Produced a Bipartisan Agreement to Help Fix Our Broken Asylum System, Feb. 4, 2024
The Associated Press, Border bill supporters combat misleading claims that it would let in more migrants, Feb. 5, 2024
CNN, What the border bill would and wouldn’t do, Feb. 6, 2024
Email interview, Sen. Chris Murphy press office, Feb. 6, 2024