A former administration official familiar with the discussions, who was granted anonymity to discuss private conversations, said the White House’s openness to asylum reform ‘constitutes a huge and political risk’ .
“It could get ugly,” the person added.
While the administration has begun to sketch the contours of a possible compromise on immigration policy, similar movement is harder to detect on the Hill. Democratic lawmakers have resisted engaging in negotiations over what concessions they would make before Republicans detail what they are concretely asking for on policy, even as they express a willingness to talk.
“I think it’s hard to do these things quickly, right, without having a lot of unnecessary consequences,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “But we have to be open to discussions.”
But generally speaking, Democrats have also discussed changes in asylum policy as a possible overlapping legislative interest. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said “the asylum process is clearly something that needs to be looked at,” while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), another member of the Senate. Homeland Security, said the asylum’s “judicial process and timeline” should be considered.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday stressed the need for Congress to move forward with Biden’s additional request, which the administration views as the best way to manage the needs of border security.
“We’ve been very clear: If Republicans are serious about border security, this is something they should move forward on – easily. Easily. But what we have seen time and time again is political games being played,” she said.
The specific asylum reform discussed in private conversations with administration officials, according to people close to them, constitutes a shift from the credible fear test. Under current law, if a migrant is subject to expedited removal and is subject to the credible fear process, that person must demonstrate a “significant possibility” of credible fear of persecution, torture, or fear of return in his country. A change in the wording of the law could in theory mean that fewer migrants meet the threshold of credible fear and, therefore, more would be denied the opportunity to seek asylum.
Such a change is unlikely to appease Republicans, who are pushing proposals such as reintroducing Remain in Mexico — a Trump-era policy that forced migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum claims were processed. processed – as well as other changes to the asylum law.
“The second thing we would like to see is to change the asylum application standards, so that 21,000 people are not applying for asylum every three days. I think those are the two big issues, and there are a lot of other smaller issues that I think are going to come up in the negotiations,” Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) told POLITICO.
The administration’s decision could further spark backlash among Democrats, particularly among those who accuse the White House of lacking a humane approach to borders and migration. A person familiar with the talks told POLITICO that if the White House moves forward with pushing changes to asylum law without trying to advance something like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program , immigration advocates would likely denounce the deal.
The inclusion of immigration policy in the debate around the president’s additional request has already proven to be a magnet for elected officials seeking related and peripheral reforms.
A group of Democratic mayors descended on Washington on Thursday to meet with White House and DHS officials — including White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Director Tom Perez — before heading out later on the Hill to meet with Democratic senators. They met with Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, Montana Senator Jon Tester and Arizona independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
As their cities deal with an influx of migrants, they too hope that the imperative to pass on funding from Ukraine and Israel will help them advance their own immigration demands – not just in terms of funding , but also by changing policies that would allow migrants to work. The thinking among mayors is that a sweet spot for this deal could be adjusting the asylum law in exchange for work authorization, all tied to funding from Ukraine and Israel.
“It’s pretty hard to ignore when both parties in Congress, the White House, and big city mayors all agree that there needs to be resources and changes in how we handle migration,” said another. former administration official.
“But where it quickly falls apart is what does it look like? And what are the specific policy changes?
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.