The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

While border crossings remain high, Iowa’s federal delegation talks solutions

Several members support reform to asylum, and immigration but some want to focus on stemming the flow of migrants before solutions can be nailed down.
Cody Blissett
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, April 09, 2024.

WASHINGTON — While the record number of U.S.-Mexico border crossings continues to garner national attention, several of Iowa’s federal delegates have solutions in mind while Republicans and Democrats are in a stalemate.

All of the members of the delegation interviewed by The Daily Iowan point to the record-high number of encounters with migrants reported by the U.S. Border Patrol as a failure of the Biden administration. 

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While Democrats call for reforms to the legal immigration system, Republicans hope to increase border enforcement. Several members of Iowa’s federal delegation told the DI that they would support reforms to immigration but are more concerned with increasing enforcement of immigration laws in the interim.

Immigration became one of the biggest issues in this year’s presidential election. Exit polls showed it as the top concern among many Republican voters in early primaries. Ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 16, Iowa Republicans focused more on immigration than the economy, according to AP VoteCast

The scope of the problem

Since President Joe Biden took office in 2020, the monthly number of migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border has surpassed 200,000 on 10 separate occasions, according to government statistics

The same report revealed the U.S. Border Patrol had nearly 250,000 encounters with migrants crossing from Mexico to the U.S. in December 2023 — the highest monthly total recorded.  

Additionally, a PolitiFact analysis found that U.S. immigration authorities have recorded roughly 7.2 million instances of migrants at and between ports of entry during Biden’s time in office. However, this number tracks events, not people, and the same person can be recorded multiple times. 

The data does not show how many people have entered illegally and remain in the U.S.

Hinson says border enforcement is necessary before immigration reforms

In an interview with the DI on Tuesday, Hinson said before Congress can think of reforms to the legal immigration and asylum systems, the Biden administration must enforce existing immigration laws. 

“I’m incredibly frustrated by the crisis at our southern border,” Hinson told the DI. “And the reason it’s a flashpoint is that people care about safety and security in this country, and what they’re seeing is a wide open southern border.” 

Hinson also called out the “complete abuse and weaponization of the asylum system” under the Biden administration.

“We want to make sure that refugees have the ability to come into our country and people who are legitimately fleeing for those purposes have a place here, but we need to make sure we’re doing this in the right way,” Hinson said. “This administration has enacted more than 60 executive orders to create the crisis at our southern border, including weaponizing the asylum system.” 

Ernst continues to push for “Sarah’s Law”

Eight years ago, U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst R-Iowa introduced “Sarah’s Law,” a bill named after Sarah Root, a young Iowan hit and killed by an illegal immigrant who was driving drunk. The driver was detained and charged, but posted bail and disappeared. 

In an interview with the DI, Ernst said the bill would not be a solution to the southern border but would hold people who are here illegally in the United States accountable if they killed or seriously injured another person. 

“We could say that Americans should be held accountable; why shouldn’t people that are here illegally be held accountable as well?” Ernst said. “So it’s not going to be a solution for the border. But it is a solution for some of the repercussions that we see that go along with having people here illegally in the country.” 

RELATED: Miller-Meeks now heads caucus of climate-minded conservatives, the second-ever to lead the caucus

Sarah’s Law amends the mandatory detention provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act to require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain illegal immigrants who are criminally charged with killing or seriously injuring another person. 

Ernst discussed the “human issue” behind the problem of immigration, expressing concern for providing shelter, food, and medical care to the large number of migrants entering the U.S. 

“People need to be cared for,” she said. “We cannot physically do it with that many people coming into the country. Our shelters are not set for this, our food pantries are not set for this, our hospitals are not set for this. They should not be coming into a country where we cannot support them, so bottom line, they need to stay put.” 

Ernst said if people meet asylum standards, they can apply for asylum in their home country or a neutral third country.  

Miller-Meeks, Grassley support reforms to asylum, legal immigration

U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, pointed to what she sees as Biden’s mismanagement of the border for the reason crossing are at a record high and that Biden has the power to fix the border currently, without help from Congress. 

“I think the southern border is a crisis, but we have four borders,” Miller-Meeks said.  “All of our borders should be protected. We’re a sovereign nation. We have the right to have secure borders.” 

Miller-Meeks told the DI that she supports renewing existing green cards instead of tossing unused green cards, as well as legislation to give DREAMers a path to citizenship, and legislation to supply visas to individuals who assisted the American military in Afghanistan. 

However, Miller-Meeks said Biden isn’t doing enough. 

“I do think that President Biden, when he came into office, did away with every policy that was working,” Miller-Meeks said. “I think those clarifications to our legal immigration system are warranted, but right now the president has it within his control to stem this tide” 

In his famously frequent visits to various locations in Iowa, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said he is consistently asked what he will do about immigration, and he typically supplies the same response: 

“You don’t come to the United States without our permission,” Grassley said. “[Congress doesn’t] enforce laws, the president enforces the laws, and this president said before he was even elected he was going to enforce laws, so we shouldn’t be surprised that we have an open border.” 

Grassley said problems that arise from a poorly enforced southern border, such as human trafficking, are a result of Biden’s policies. 

Originally introduced in 2007 and adopted in 2020, bipartisan legislation led by Grassley reformed visa programs allowing foreign workers to obtain visas and maintain jobs, prioritizing those who earned degrees in the U.S. 

The legislation makes a targeted point to protect American workers from being replaced by workers on visas, as well as increasing transparency about the process of obtaining a visa. 

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About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.