The bill does not have Democratic cosponsors. When asked about the legislation, a spokesman for Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters, D-Mich., noted his sponsorship of a separate bipartisan bill aimed at increasing support for victims of human trafficking.

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that the department is reviewing the Act to Stop Republican Taxpayer Funding of Traffickers. “Since day one, this Administration has intensified efforts to crack down on people smugglers and drug traffickers,” the spokesperson added. «We secured record funding for border security, launched an unprecedented anti-smuggling campaign with regional partners, and expanded legal avenues for immigration to eliminate smuggling rings that prey on vulnerable migrants.»

DHS launched a $60 million campaign in 2022 to dismantle people smuggling networks, resulting in the arrest of more than 8,800 smugglers and the disruption of nearly 9,000 smuggling operations over the past year, according to the department. DHS says it is also implementing new high-tech solutions to crack down on criminal networks and has seized more drugs and arrested more people on fentanyl-related charges in the past two years than in the previous five years combined.

Prospects for comprehensive immigration reform remain bleak in the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-led Senate. After record border crossings in 2022, 72% of Americans now say Congress should prioritize increasing border security, according to a January NBC News poll. But 80% in the same poll also said that Congress should provide a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements.

Instead, many Republicans in the House are waging efforts to revive the Trump administration-era border wall and crack down on asylum seekers.

“When I was in the House, we tried to work on this issue in a constructive way,” Blackburn said, pointing a finger at Democrats. «And it’s disappointing to us that some of our colleagues across the aisle want the problem and not the solution.»

Blackburn, Hyde-Smith and Britt say they are working together to address the problem, in part, because of something they all share: They are mothers.

“I think it has a lot to do with it,” Hyde-Smith said. “I have a small shoe on my desk that I picked up that came out of the Rio Grande. And I will always keep that shoe on that desk so we can remember to keep telling the story.»

“As a mom,” Britt shared, “when you look and see those little shoes, when you see a 6-month-old shaking because he just came out of the water… you realize that this crisis has an enormous cost.”