Mexico and Ukraine are thousands of miles apart, but this legislation would tie together the U.S. response to both nations.
Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. A portion of the population, particularly along the eastern portion which borders Russia, retains a strong cultural Russian affiliation. In February, the Russian military invaded Ukraine with the intent of replacing its democratically elected government with a Russian-controlled one.
This could potentially become the largest European land invasion since World War II. In response, in early February, President Joe Biden deployed 3,000 troops to NATO member countries adjacent to Ukraine to assist with Ukrainian refugees, with the possibility of more troops to come if the situation escalates further.
Meanwhile, in July 2021, U.S. Border Patrol reported its highest total of monthly encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border since March 2000. Some Republicans draw a contrast between what they believe is Biden’s weak response to the Mexican border situation versus what they perceive as his comparatively stronger response to the Ukraine border situation, although what one has to do with another is unclear.
What the bills do
Two new Republican bills both seek to tie the U.S. response to Ukraine to the situation along the border with America’s own southern neighbor.
The Secure America’s Borders First Act would ban the use of federal dollars to assist Ukraine until the U.S.-Mexico border achieves “operational control,” including a border wall as per former President Donald Trump’s famous campaign pledge. (The bill even requires the wall be at least 30 feet tall.) It was introduced in the House on February 8 as H.R. 6648, by Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT0).
The USB (Ukraine and Southern Border) Act would allow the U.S. to support Ukraine, but mandates that the number of Armed Force members deployed there must be less than the number deployed to the Mexican border. It was introduced in the House on February 9 as H.R. 6665, by Madison Cawthorn (R-NC11).
What supporters say
Supporters argue that even if one believes the U.S. should militarily assist Ukraine, it should rank as a backup priority to our own domestic border situation.
“While our nation has miserably failed to secure our own border and protect our own territorial integrity, we are now being told by ‘America Last’ politicians on both sides of the aisle, that it is our obligation to do so for Ukraine,” Rep. Rosendale said in a press release. “Before warmongers rush America into another foreign conflict over the border of an Eastern European nation thousands of miles from our shores, at the very least they should ensure our southern border is secure first.”
“If Joe Biden truly cared about the wellbeing of Americans, he would prioritize the United States’ national security over the affairs of nations around the world,” Rep. Cawthorn said in a separate press release. “I do not want American soldiers in Ukraine or Russia, but if this administration takes action to send troops overseas, the very least we can do to secure our own nation is send the same number of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to augment the efforts of our border patrol agents working diligently to secure America.”
What opponents say
The president has defended both his Ukraine and his Mexico policies, positioning both policies as seeking peace and diplomacy first and foremost.
“There’s a long and complicated history between our nations [the U.S. and Mexico], and haven’t always been perfect neighbors with one another, but we have seen over and over again the power and the purpose when we cooperate,” Biden said in a 2021 speech. “And we’re safer when we work together, whether it’s addressing the challenges of our shared border or getting this pandemic under control. [In both the Obama and Biden administration], we made a commitment that we look at Mexico as an equal, not as somebody who is south of our border.”
“Make no mistake: If Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice,” Biden said in a 2022 speech. “The United States and our allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well. We also will not send troops in to fight in Ukraine, but we will continue to support the Ukrainian people… But I say again: Russia can still choose diplomacy. It is not too late to de-escalate and return to the negotiating table.”
Odds of passage
The Secure America’s Borders First Act has attracted nine cosponsors, all Republicans. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Armed Services or Foreign Affairs Committee.
The USB Act has attracted one Republican cosponsor, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ4). It awaits a potential vote in the House Armed Services Committee.
Odds of passage are low in the Republican-controlled chamber.