The Hill: Spanberger: Congress must separate issues of immigration, border security


Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) on Thursday said Congress needs to decouple the issues of immigration and border security to make any progress legislatively.

Speaking on “What America’s Thinking,” the moderate Democrat representing a swing district recognized the challenges of pursuing legislative solutions for polarizing issues.

“My job is to try and pull something together and deal with the elements of this complicated, difficult situation,” she said.

Spanberger added that her constituents “may not necessarily love the answer,” but being truthful about the scope of issues and proposed solutions is key to addressing these politicized issues.

“That demonstrates respect for voters, respect for our fellow Americans and, frankly, respect for the gravity of the issue that we’re facing when it comes to the issue of immigration and border security, which are two separate issues that really do go hand in hand.”

Spanberger said constituents in politically diverse districts are used to disagreements, but expect results.

“In swing districts, in districts where we represent a lot of people who agree with us and who don’t agree with us, what those people live every day is working with people they don’t agree with, or neighbors that they might have disagreements with,” Spanberger said.

“Frankly, in my district people expect me to address tough problems,” she added.

In 2022, Spanberger and Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) shepherded the Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act through Congress.

The bill was signed into law by President Biden in December as part of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, enhancing scanning technology at ports of entry and providing U.S. officials with new data and metrics solutions to improve interdiction capabilities.

“We need to continue investing in additional technologies — we need to recognize that the X-ray machines of 30 years ago are just not cutting it anymore,” Spanberger said.

“I was proud that President Biden signed my legislation Securing America’s Borders Against Fentanyl Act, which is a step in the right direction, but still more needs to be done.”

Spanberger’s view of separating border security and immigration is at the center of debate on the issues in the new GOP-controlled House.

The House Judiciary Committee, a panel with jurisdiction over immigration, on Wednesday met to debate the issues, with Republicans largely in favor of merging border security, immigration and the fentanyl crisis and Democrats urging their colleagues to tackle each issue on its own.

But not all Republicans want to merge the issues.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), who represents a district that spans a third of the entire U.S.-Mexico border, told The Hill Thursday that fentanyl and immigration are “closely related, but they are two separate issues.”

For Spanberger, “a system that works” would allow people with asylum claims to apply for protections, while improving the visa system so foreign nationals can apply to come to the United States temporarily or permanently and U.S. authorities can have better control over who is entering the country.

“But at the same time, we can decouple the discussions of people and humanity and workers and families from the very real truth that indeed there are transnational criminal organizations that are trafficking fentanyl and making billions of dollars a year trafficking vulnerable people,” Spanberger said.

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