Does Border Bill Allow 1.8 Million Migrants Into US? What We Know

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The U.S. Senate’s $118 billion southern border bill has drawn scrutiny for how many migrants can enter the country under the proposed law, with concerns that a daily average linked to triggering emergency measures could equate to 1.8 million crossings being allowed yearly.

More than 300,000 Southwest land border migrant encounters were reported in December, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The 370-page legislation unveiled Sunday aims to deter the influx, imposing tougher migration rules and hiring hundreds of more Border Patrol agents, as well as providing aid for both Ukraine and Israel.

Tensions have risen among Republicans in each chamber, however, as House Speaker Mike Johnson has called the bill “worse than we expected” and former President Donald Trump has also expressed opposition.

U.S. Border Patrol agents guard migrants that crossed into Shelby Park as they wait to be picked up for processing on February 4, 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. A new 370-page bill coming out of…


Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

One piece of the legislation that has drawn attention states that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “shall activate the border emergency authority if, during a period of seven consecutive calendar days, there is an average of 5,000 or more aliens who are encountered each day…or on any one calendar day, a combined total of 8,500 or more aliens are encountered.”

If a hypothetical 5,000 migrants were encountered daily for a 365-day period, it would equate to approximately 1.825 million migrants.

But Republican Senator James Lankford, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, refuted claims about that 5,000 figure on Monday on Fox News’ Fox and Friends.

“We’ve got to be able to have something that mandatorily deports everyone rather than actually releases everyone,” Lankford said. “That’s what this does. Some people are thinking this is somehow like counting 5,000 in every day or releasing them. That’s absurd.”

He added that if the proposed legislation had been in place already, it would have already resulted in one million fewer illegal immigrants in the country at the present moment.

A Lankford spokesperson referred Newsweek to the senator’s expanded comments in a thread on X, formerly Twitter, in which he called the Border Emergency Authority “the most misunderstood or maybe just misrepresented parts of the bill.”

“The emergency authority is not designed to let 5,000 people in, it is designed to close the border and turn 5,000 people around,” Lankford wrote. “The Border Emergency Authority only lasts 3 yrs to force this Admin to shut down the border & to give time for the next POTUS to hire more agents & more officers. After three years, the emergency authority expires because we should have regained full control of our border by then.”

The proposal would also modify rules towards asylum, which would not only require the government to process at least 1,400 asylum applications at ports of entry when emergency authority is triggered but also expedite the asylum process from years to months in many cases.

Along with immediately deporting migrants attempting to illegally cross the border, the proposal would also provide authority to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to decide whether an asylum claim could go into effect without having to first go through the immigration court system—which would not apply to unaccompanied migrant children.

Concerns among House Republicans over the border bill include continued aid for Ukraine, while overall concern related to cost remains top of mind.