Immigration and border security are perennial issues in American elections; both parties have raised money and campaigned on them, without subsequently following through by passing substantive legislation. The last major immigration reform bill passed when Ronald Reagan was president.

It has seemed at times that our political parties have decided that immigration and border security are issues best left unsolved — so they can continue campaigning and raising money on them. But there are real problems affecting real people that deserve real solutions.

With Republicans taking the majority in the House, the ball is now in their proverbial court.

Rep. Chip Roy’s (R-Texas) “Border Safety and Security Act of 2023,” H.R. 29, which currently has 64 cosponsors, was supposed to go directly to the floor for a vote instead of having to move through the regular legislative process. But concerns about the bill from within the Republican Party prevented this from happening.

Roy’s objective is to end the Biden administration’s “catch and release” border policy. A report from the DHS Inspector General indicates that the administration has released most of the illegal crossers it has apprehended who are not expelled under Title 42. That amounts to nearly 1.35 million undocumented migrants released into the country — plus there have been 1.2 million gotaways. Gotaways are illegal crossers who are detected but not apprehended.

Moreover, there has been an increase in the apprehensions of undocumented crossers at the northern border. The Border Patrol has apprehended more illegal crossers on the northern border in 2023 than in all of last year — and it's only February.

H.R. 29 could end “catch and release,” but its provisions are so extreme that even Republicans are objecting to it.

Are its 65 Republican sponsors just playing to their base with no expectation of seeing it enacted into law? Perhaps. But it will now go through the regular legislative process, during which it can be reviewed and amended — and I think it’s possible to make it acceptable enough to pass in the House and perhaps the Senate.


Published originally in The Hill.

Nolan Rappaport was detailed to the House Judiciary Committee as an Executive Branch Immigration Law Expert for three years. He subsequently served as an immigration counsel for the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims for four years. Prior to working on the Judiciary Committee, he wrote decisions for the Board of Immigration Appeals for 20 years. Follow him at: