The warning is aimed at a group of six senators — three Republicans, three Democrats — who are trying to unblock President Joe Biden’s request for $106 billion in additional funding for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
Stronger border security is the price the Republican Party pays for aid to Ukraine, representing a shift from the traditional immigration policy equation: Republicans get border security. borders, yes, but Democrats are getting aid to Ukraine, not housing for undocumented immigrants or other concessions. The lead Democratic negotiator, Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), attempted to add citizenship for Dreamers early in negotiations, but Republicans rejected it.
For supporters of immigration reform, this means their long-held priorities have been abandoned and replaced by Biden’s foreign aid priorities. And they’re starting to step up the pressure on Senate Democrats and the White House.
“These proposals do nothing to secure our border or address the desire of the American electorate to see both humane, orderly processes at the border and pathways to legal status for long-settled immigrants in the states. -United,” Kerri Talbot of the Immigration Hub said in a statement Tuesday.
Talbot worked for Senate Democratic leaders in 2013, the last time Congress attempted to pass comprehensive immigration reform, and as executive director of Immigration Hub she now advises immigration organizations progressive on strategy. His advice is to vote no: “No Democrat should accept these ransom demands that would harm immigrants. »
The negotiations are now structured around three major issues:
- Asylum standards: When migrants apply for asylum, they are screened to determine whether they have a “credible fear” of persecution or torture if returned home. Republicans want higher standards, which would result in more migrants being deported.
- Safe third countries: Discussions are underway about expanding the number of countries in which asylum seekers would be required to first seek protection if they cross the country to the U.S. border. Canada, for example, is designated as a “safe third country,” while Mexico is not.
- Parole Authority: Presidents have the authority to temporarily admit people to the United States for humanitarian or other reasons. For example, Biden used these “parole” powers to allow the entry of thousands of people from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba and elsewhere; The Republicans want to significantly reduce this authority.
When it comes to the politics of these three issues, Democrats involved in the negotiations appear resigned to accepting a revised asylum threshold, deeply hostile to interference with parole authority and somewhere between safe third countries.
Senators who spoke Wednesday said any substantial changes should be accompanied by concessions on immigration policies, not funding for Ukraine.
“Any proposal considering permanent changes to our asylum and immigration system must include a clear path toward legalizing long-term undocumented immigrants,” the senators said in a statement co-signed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D- Ill. ), the leader of Party No. 2 and a longtime defender of the Dreamers.
The left has other complaints about the process: (1) that Biden is so hungry for an immigration deal that he is willing to reveal too much, and (2) that Senate negotiators are not close to the activists.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) was once the leading Democrat on the issue, but he was sidelined by corruption allegations. (He signed the statement led by Padilla.)
Unlike the Gang of Eight that negotiated a major Senate immigration bill in 2013, this current group of six Senate negotiators does not include any Latinos. “It’s the White People,” moaned one activist.
The right, for its part, is hardly united on the emerging agreement in the Senate. House Republicans continue to promote HR 2, a broader and more restrictive bill than Democrats would ever accept. In a sign of the grassroots reaction to any potential deal, Heritage Action for America yesterday came out against the Senate talks and demanded that Republicans commit to H.R. 2 instead.
House Speaker Mike Johnson will attend the Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday, where border talks are expected to take place, giving an indication of how close or far House and Senate Republicans are.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to move negotiations forward by setting next week as the deadline for a vote on Biden’s aid plan. But if it collapses, all eyes will be on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who both supports aid to Ukraine and works to tie that aid to border security.
There’s no obvious Plan B, so Biden and McConnell, for very different reasons, have a strong incentive to figure this one out — and they’re encouraged by current Senate Democrats, who are starting to see the political benefits of a deal: Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) all told POLITICO yesterday that they are open to asylum policy changes.
“I think it doesn’t hurt,” Tester said.
Do you like this content ? Sign up for POLITICO’s Playbook newsletter.