GOP Pairs Border Security, Uk 11/27 06:29
As Congress returns to session this week, lawmakers will be trying to forge
an agreement on sending a new round of wartime assistance to Ukraine.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Congress returns to session this week, lawmakers will
be trying to forge an agreement on sending a new round of wartime assistance to
Ukraine. But to succeed, they will have to find agreement on an issue that has
confounded them for decades.
Republicans in both chambers of Congress have made clear that they will not
support additional aid for Ukraine unless it is paired with border security
measures to help manage the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Their
demand has injected one of the most contentious issues in American politics
into a foreign policy debate that was already difficult.
Time is short for a deal.
A small, bipartisan group in the Senate is taking the lead and working to
find a narrow compromise that can overcome a likely filibuster by winning 60
votes. But even if they can reach a modest agreement, there is no guarantee it
would pass the House, where Republicans are insisting on wholesale changes to
U.S. border and immigration policies.
Republicans hope that Democrats will feel political pressure to accept some
of their border proposals after illegal crossings topped a daily average of
more than 8,000 earlier this fall. President Joe Biden, who is running for
reelection next year, has faced pressure even from fellow Democrats over the
No matter what, finding compromise will be exceedingly difficult. As they
left for Thanksgiving break, Senate negotiators said they were still far apart.
A look at some of the issues under discussion and why they have proved so
difficult to resolve:
Asylum and humanitarian parole
Changing the asylum system for migrants is a top priority for Republicans.
They want to make it more difficult for asylum-seekers to prove in initial
interviews that they have a credible fear of political, religious or racial
persecution in their home country before advancing toward asylum in the United
Republicans in the House have passed legislation that would detain families
at the border, require migrants to make the asylum claim at an official port of
entry and either detain them or require them to remain outside the U.S. while
their case is processed.
U.S. and international law give migrants the right to seek safety from
persecution, but the number of people applying for asylum in the U.S. has
reached historic highs. Critics say many people take advantage of the system to
live and work in the U.S. while they wait for their asylum claims to be
processed in court.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who is part of the Senate
negotiations, said in an Arizona radio interview that one of lawmakers' goals
is to ensure that "those who are here seeking asylum have an actual claim to
Compromise is far from certain. Many Democrats are wary of making it harder
to flee persecution, and the details of each policy shift are contentious.
Hardline conservatives in the House, already unlikely to support further
Ukraine aid, have also signaled they won't accept policy changes that deviate
much from a bill passed in May that would have remade the U.S. immigration
system. Their stance means at least some support from House Democrats will be
needed to pass any agreement --- no easy task.
Some progressives have already said they will oppose any Republican-led
changes to immigration policy.
"The cruel, inhumane, and unworkable solutions offered by Republicans will
only create more disorder and confusion at the border," said Democratic Rep.
Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Infrastructure and enforcement
Lawmakers may find it easier to reach consensus on other areas of border
policy, particularly when it comes to border staffing and enforcement.
Negotiators have looked at steps that could be taken to reinforce existing
infrastructure at the border, including hiring and boosting pay for border
patrol officers and improving technology. One proposal advanced by a bipartisan
group of senators would call for hiring of more border patrol agents, raising
their pay and ensuring they receive overtime.
Biden has shown a willingness to accept tougher enforcement measures,
recently resuming deportation of migrants to Venezuela and waiving federal laws
to allow for the construction of border wall that began under then-President
Donald Trump. The White House also wants to install new imaging technology at
ports of entry that would allow authorities to quickly scan vehicles for
illegal imports, including fentanyl.
Republicans say that is not enough. They want more robust improvements,
including more expansive construction of a border wall.
What Biden is asking for
Biden's emergency request to Congress included aid for Ukraine, Israel and
other U.S. allies, along with $14 billion to bolster the immigration system and
border security. Money would go toward hiring more border patrol agents,
immigration judges and asylum officers. It's part of Biden's strategy of trying
to simultaneously turn away from Trump's hard-line policies but adapt to the
realities of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Still, polls indicate widespread frustration with Biden's handling of
immigration and the border, creating a political vulnerability as he seeks
reelection. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Senate
Appropriations Committee this month that the administration has been faced with
a "global phenomenon" of displaced people migrating in numbers that have not
been seen since World War II.
"It is unanimous that our broken immigration system is in dire need of
reform," Mayorkas said.
Democrats have other immigration priorities, such as expanding legal
immigration pathways or work authorizations for migrants already in the U.S.
Democrats have also warned about the danger of delaying aid to Ukraine as it
enters another winter of war against Russia.
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said
it's a mistake to create a situation where "we have to do significant
immigration reform in the next few weeks or we won't send money to assist the
people in Ukraine or other causes important to our national security."
Republicans have so far been adamant about the need to address Ukraine and
the border at the same time.
Rep. Mike Turner, a strong supporter of aid to Ukraine and chairman of the
House Intelligence Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he
thought passing Biden's package would be "very difficult" to accomplish by
year's end. "The impediment currently is the White House policy on the on the
southern border," said Turner, R-Ohio.
What's likely not on the table
Lawmakers seem unlikely to address one of the nation's long-standing
immigration issues: granting some form of permanent legal status to thousands
of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Republicans
have made clear that will not be addressed in this package, which they want to
be more narrowly focused on border security measures.
As Congress struggled to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul,
President Barack Obama launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
program in 2012 to shield those immigrants from deportation and allow them to
work legally in the country. But it has been caught up in the courts ever
since, and Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination
in 2024, tried to end it when he was in the White House.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the Senate negotiators,
would not say early last week whether his side had proposed DACA provisions as
part of the talks. But he said any deal "has to respect both Republican and
"The more Republicans want, the more Democrats are going to want," Murphy
Republicans argue that Ukraine aid could be a tough sell to some of their
voters, and the border policy is the compromise.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican who has been involved in the talks,
said before the Thanksgiving holiday that the negotiations were not "very close
yet, because Democrats have not yet accepted that the negotiations are not
border security for Democratic immigration priorities. It's border security for
So far, leaders in both parties have encouraged the talks. But as senators
restart their work and face pressure to approve funding by the end of the year,
some are warning that a narrow deal is likely the best that they can do.
"I don't think it's realistic to solve anywhere close to the whole problem
in the next two weeks," Murphy said.
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