The looming crisis at the southern border is entirely the making of President Joe Biden and his open-frontiers policy.
During Biden’s first year in office, the Border Patrol encountered more than 2 million people from 150 countries and more are massing at the border in anticipation of the end of Title 42, the policy that allows federal agents to boot illegal immigrants without a hearing.
Yet Biden, instead of beefing up enforcement of existing laws and urging foreigners to stay home, is now planning to relocate federal employees from other agencies to process the crush of illegal newcomers – including repositioning workers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
That immediately fired up Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and a handful of his GOP colleagues in the Senate.
The Republicans pointed out in a letter to Biden that it’s harmful to the nation’s military veterans and simply asinine to use VA workers for this role, when the VA is facing a near-crisis of its own in retaining and recruiting employees.
“The VA is currently experiencing major staffing shortages and high workforce turnover rates. The deployment of VA personnel in a ‘Fourth Mission’ capacity will impact veterans’ ability to receive timely care from the VA and should not be a consideration while developing your Administration’s plan as a result of the failure to implement and maintain commonsense border security policies,” the senators wrote.
According to the website FederalJobs.net, the VA employs more than 427,000 people.
Yet in their letter the GOP lawmakers pointed out that the agency loses roughly 40,000 staffers in a typical year because of retirements, firings, or outside employment.
Currently, they added, the VA has more than 10,000 additional job vacancies and is suffering the highest turnover rate among its nursing corps in the last 15 years.
The VA’s so-called “Fourth Mission” is to bolster the nation’s readiness to continue to serve veterans and their needs amid war, terrorism, or other national emergencies and natural disasters. The agency’s task also supports other federal, state, and local agencies with jurisdiction over emergency management, public health, safety, and homeland security.
“Congress recognizes and remains grateful for the essential role of VA personnel in responding to fulfill the VA’s ‘Fourth Mission’ during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote.
“However, the ‘Fourth Mission’ is not a tool to clean up the mess from a foreseeable and avoidable crisis, especially while the VA is already experiencing record-high turnover rates and issues of workforce resiliency amongst its health care employees.”
They pointed out that the federal government already faces a “record-breaking number of border encounters.” The Title 42 policy has already been invoked more than 1 million times. It remains essential to combat the flow of border-erasing illegal immigration.
And as the Biden administration braces for the “inevitable surge of illegal immigrants” once Title 42 ends, the lawmakers stated, Biden has already tapped staffers from the departments of State, Justice, Defense, and Health and Human Services to deal with the onslaught.
Congress, they pointed out, has sought to address the VA’s manpower issues by passing a bill that allows the agency to boost pay to better compete with the private sector.
“The pandemic has highlighted the VA’s need to create a more resilient workforce, which has been a priority for Congress and the VA. The White House must reject procedures diverting the attention of an already overextended workforce away from veteran’s care<’ the senators argued.
They demanded that Biden inform Congress of his plan to handle the tsunami of illegal immigrants if Title 42 goes away – and that includes excluding the VA.
“The VA plays an essential role in responding to a crisis when called; however, it must not be part of the response plan to a foreseeable problem when the circumstance is avoidable,” they added. “The burden of addressing this Administration’s abject failure to contain the crisis at the southern border should not come at the expense of our nation’s veterans.”
“Prioritizing the care of illegal immigrants before the needs of veterans is inconceivable and wrong. We have an obligation to provide quality and timely care to the men and women who bravely served our country. We strongly disapprove of any decisions which hinder successfully fulfilling that mission.”
“That is why we call on the Administration to commit not to use VA health care professionals in any capacity regarding the border crisis of your creation as contingency plans are being developed for the disastrous decision to rescind CBP’s [Customs and Border Protection] authority to execute its Title 42 Order,” the lawmakers concluded.
Besides Rubio, the letter was endorsed by GOP Sens. John Boozman of Arkansas, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas, Steve Daines of Montana, and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.