WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) joined KSL’s Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson to discuss the Biden Administration’s mishandling of the crisis at our southern border, the expiration of Title 42 authorities, and need to complete the border wall. He also urged President Biden to sit down and negotiate on the debt ceiling to avoid cataclysmic economic consequences—like a recession, the stoppage of Social Security and Medicare payments, and a disruption of the global financial system.
Excerpts from the interview can be found below:
On the border crisis and Title 42 expiration:
Boyd Matheson: Senator, there’s a whole lot going on there in Washington, D.C. today. But let’s start at the southern border. With just hours until Title 42 goes away, give us a sense of the lay of the land and what are we seeing as we come down the homestretch there?
Senator Romney: Well, it’s unfortunate that the cartels are sending illegal immigrants into our country by the thousands. And it turns out by the tens of thousands. We had, I think yesterday, 11,000 people came into the country. That number is probably going to grow dramatically over the next few days, in part because Title 42 expires this evening at midnight. This was a provision that allows the Border Patrol agents to turn people back because of COVID restrictions. That goes away. And the cartels have been anxiously letting immigrants to pour into the country ultimately illegally. We’re getting flooded with people into this country that shouldn’t be here. And unfortunately, the Administration is not taking action to secure our border.
Matheson: And as you look at that, 11,000, I think, is a new record coming in in a single period. We expect that to move forward. The President himself said he expected chaos at the border for a little while. You had some interesting questions that you sent in a letter to Secretary Mayorkas in terms of border security—What has been appropriated funds—dollars and cents wise from Congress? What hasn’t been used or what hasn’t been done? Give us a sense of that.
Romney: Well, it’s kind of surprising that we had a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas. He’s in charge of the border security, homeland security, and he said that he’s done 130 projects to build the wall and to close gaps in the wall. And my letter says, well, show me, because I frankly think that’s a gross exaggeration. I don’t think there are any miles been added to the wall at all under this Administration.
And so my letter, which is signed by a lot of my colleagues, is saying, please tell us how many miles you’ve added to the wall and which gaps you’ve actually closed and of the money that’s been appropriated, what you’ve actually spent to secure our border…the President has a responsibility to defend the country, to defend the homeland, and allowing tens of thousands of people, basically 10,000 a day or more, to flood into our country is simply not fulfilling his constitutional responsibility.
Matheson: …And obviously, the immigration system itself is also under great duress and needs to be updated and reformed in significant ways. Senator, you’ve been one who has, I think, tried to bridge the gap to say, look, rule of law and security and compassion are actually compatible principles and get your colleagues to come together in terms of some real reform there. With everything coming into this kind of chaotic space, is that creating space for any kind of different conversations with your colleagues in terms of some of those reform pieces?
Romney: Well, you know, I was encouraged yesterday…The senators, particularly along the border states and those states that are seeing a lot of these immigrants coming to their country illegally, they’re beginning to feel a lot of political pressure. And hopefully that will lead to some congressional action being taken, because, you know, I blame the President for not securing the border, but I also blame him for not putting pressure on his party to work with our party and get a deal done to improve the law so that people who insist that they’re coming to seek asylum in the U.S. have to do so, not in our country, but they have to do so in their own country or a country proximate to their country before they get to our border. So yeah, we need to change our laws here to give a hand to the Border Patrol agents. But building the fence and changing the law would go a long way to protecting the homeland.
Matheson: And talk about that from a from a funding standpoint. Again, kind of going back to your conversation in the hearing with Secretary Mayorkas in terms of funding from Congress, in terms of how that is being spent or what could be done or should be done in the days ahead to better secure that border?
Romney: …Right now, our challenge is not just those that find the gaps in the wall, although that continues to be a problem. It’s that people are coming, getting in line and claiming that they’re seeking asylum from some kind of repression in their home country. Now, overwhelmingly, when these cases get adjudicated, they’re found that there was no such oppression and they’re told to go back home. But most of these people that come in illegally, we don’t know where they are. We don’t know whether they’re going to come back for a hearing. Many, many will not…
So, we don’t have a system that processes people effectively and determines whether people are legitimate in their request for asylum. We’re being overwhelmed at the border. The Administration has sufficient funds to secure the border and has funds for completing the border wall. They’re really not doing anything. And I you know, I had a conversation with one of the top Democrats in the Senate, a member of leadership, and I said, I don’t understand why you’re giving us such a big issue.
This is an issue that’s helping Republicans. Why are you Democrats giving us such a big gift? Because this is killing the country and killing your party. And he said, well, you don’t understand the power of the immigration lobby. And I thought, you know, that’s always the problem with politics…And it’s just unsavory and wrong.
Matheson: But tell us just a little bit in terms of we know that there’s a large number of those that have come across that are just being released into the country… And we know most of the troops that have been sent to the border have been more about kind of data processing as opposed to security. Where should we be in terms of that as, again, this chaos kind of mounts?
Romney: Well, you know, the President correctly said that it’s going to be chaotic at the border. And the reason it’s chaotic at the border is because we’re being overwhelmed by people who’ve been told by the cartels that if they present themselves at the U.S. border, they’ll be able to come into the country and basically wander free. And the President of the United States can take action administratively with an executive order to turn people away to keep our country from being overwhelmed. But he has chosen not to do so. And I think you’re right by the idea of sending troops. I think he’s trying to make it look like he’s doing something. But these troops are not authorized to actually turn people around and send them back. They are basically, if you will, they’re there for show…
Matheson: Anything else we should be watching on this front in the days ahead?
Romney: You know, the good news, I think, Boyd, is that the so-called mainstream media is paying attention to what’s happening at the border. For a long time, we Republicans have been jumping up and down about this and the media has not paid it attention. But I think they recognize that when there are thousands upon thousands pouring into the country every day, that that’s not good for the safety of our country. It’s not good for, if you will, our labor force to have people come in and that do not necessarily have the skills that we need in our economy. It’s not good for our spending because in many cases, these folks require food stamps or medical care. It gets expensive. Look, this just does not make sense. And I’m glad there’s increasing attention to this. And hopefully that’ll put pressure on my Democrat friends to finally come to the table and help secure our border.
On the debt ceiling negotiations:
Matheson: All right. I want to shift now to another hot topic in Washington, D.C., the debt ceiling, obviously, the clock ticking down there to June 1st. Also, the deficit spending that got us there in the first place. Give us a sense of what you’re hearing as it relates to the negotiations.
Romney: Well, I think the first thing I want to mention…[is] most people in our country…don’t know the difference between shutting down the government, which we’ve done time and again, and blowing through the debt ceiling, defaulting on our debt, and they are quite different. Shutting down the government inconveniences a lot of people. It puts some people, the government workers, out of work. That typically happens in December. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s not devastating.
If, on the other hand, we do not raise the debt limit to allow us to pay our bills, and by the way, our bills include Social Security, they include Medicare, are the salaries of our servicemen and women. If we can’t pay these bills, why, that’s a whole different thing. That’s never happened in the history of our country. And it would cause most likely a severe recession. It would cause a global disruption in our financial system. It really is devastating. So, defaulting on the debt would be an enormous error and would, I think, reflect very badly on the President for not negotiating and frankly, any elected official for not getting the job done.
So, I’m hopeful that we’ll see the President finally agree with Speaker McCarthy to rein in spending, and hopefully the President will accept the bill that was passed by the House that raises the debt ceiling and also reins in spending.
Matheson: And so as you look at that, Senator, what’s the process there? We know Senator Schumer has introduced a clean debt ceiling, no strings attached debt ceiling in the Senate. There clearly doesn’t seem to be any appetite for that to be able to be passed in the Senate. Is this a moment where the staffers can get together and actually start to work through the process of negotiating to get to a deal?
Romney: Well, the news reports today are that the White House staff individuals and Speaker McCarthy’s staff are meeting. And that’s very good news. That suggests that after the cordial meeting between the congressional leadership and the President, that some of the people that actually try and find a place to agree, that those people are actually meeting. That’s encouraging. I can’t say I’m 100% convinced it’ll yield a positive result. But it is a positive step.
Matheson: And then finally, Senator, …if you were driving this conversation from a leadership standpoint, what is it that we should really be telling the American people when it comes both to dealing with the debt ceiling? … How do we have a real conversation with the American people in terms of where we are, what needs to change, so we don’t keep having this conversation every six to 12 months?
Romney: Well, our challenge is, you know Boyd, is that that we spend massively more than we take in. And as a result of that, we have to borrow the gap between what we spend and what we actually get in revenue, tax revenue. And overwhelmingly, the reason for that is that we are not balancing our spending and our revenues on our entitlements, meaning Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. No one is in favor of cutting benefits to retirees. That’s not going to happen. But we’ve got to find a way to make sure these programs are solvent for the coming generations. So they exist for coming generations. And so we don’t keep on adding trillions of dollars to the debt.
Yesterday, Senator Romney led 14 of his colleagues in sending a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas criticizing the Administration’s failure to secure the border despite receiving congressionally-appropriated funds to continue construction of the border wall. The group also requested information on the status of the border wall construction projects, and the anticipated number of illegal immigrants expected to seek entry to the United States following the expiration of Title 42 authorities.
The letter followed Secretary Mayorkas’ testimony at a Homeland Security Committee hearing where he claimed, in defense of his actions to secure our southern border, that he “approved almost 130 projects for the closing of gaps and the completion of gates on the wall.”