New Border Flashpoint Centers on the Number 5,000

Senate bill proposes a controversial threshold
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2024 12:13 PM CST
New Border Debate Centers on the Number 5,000
Border Patrol agents ask asylum-seeking migrants to line up in a makeshift, mountainous campsite after the group crossed the border with Mexico, Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, near Jacumba Hot Springs, Calif.   (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The border deal worked out by Senate leaders of both parties appears to be doomed, and one point of contention brought up by hardline GOP opponents revolves around the number 5,000.

  • Under the plan, the Department of Homeland Security would close the border if the number of migrant encounters reached an average of 5,000 per day over the course of a week, reports the AP.
  • GOP critics have interpreted that to mean that the bill allows up to 5,000 to cross the border every day. "If you set a standard of about 5,000, the cartels will go ah, I get it. 4,999? You got it," said Rep. Chip Roy on Monday, per the Hill. Others, including former President Trump, have made similar remarks: "This bill has 5,000 people a day potentially coming into our country," Trump said Monday in an interview. "It doesn't make sense."

  • This line of attack is misleading, writes Angelo Fichera in the New York Times. The bill doesn't say that 5,000 migrants are allowed to cross the border each day. "Instead, the bill uses that number to help determine when a new, stringent emergency authority can take effect to more easily expel migrants, regardless of whether they intend to seek asylum." Read his full analysis.
  • GOP Sen. James Lankford, one of the bill's negotiators, also is pushing back against this narrative. The bill "is not designed to let 5,000 people in, it is designed to close the border and turn 5,000 people around," he says, per the AP. "It's been said wrong so many times that people immediately just go back to, 'This lets 5,000 people in a day,' which is just factually wrong, but if you say it enough, it just sounds true."
  • "This is one of the most widely mischaracterized provisions in the Senate bill," Michelle Mittelstadt of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute tells Poynter. "This is not a number that is 'allowed in,'" adds Theresa Cardinal Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center in an email to the outlet. "It is a threshold of ARRIVALS that triggers a new authority."
  • Lankford and other authors of the bill are emphasizing that the legislation would keep far more people out of the country than is currently happening. A similar point is echoed by the conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. "By any honest reckoning, this is the most restrictive migrant legislation in decades," reads the editorial. By opposing it, Republicans "will hand Democrats an argument that the GOP wants border chaos that they can exploit as a campaign issue."
(More immigration stories.)

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