Home » White House Agitates Allies With Major Border Concessions as It Races to Get Ukraine Aid Deal

White House Agitates Allies With Major Border Concessions as It Races to Get Ukraine Aid Deal

The White House’s growing urgency to get Ukraine aid passed is forcing Democrats to reckon with immigration policies they’ve previously tied to former President Donald Trump, agitating President Joe Biden’s allies and underscoring the unrelenting complexities of the immigration debate.

It’s a stark moment that ties together some of Biden’s – and Democrats’– most vexing political problems. The president has wrestled with migrant surges along the US-Mexico border multiple times over the course of his administration in the face of unprecedented migration across the Western Hemisphere, while the wars in Ukraine and Gaza have formed the central foreign policy challenges of his presidency on the eve of an election year.

Fresh off Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington this week, Biden once again signaled that he was open to border policy changes in exchange for aid for Ukraine, firmly putting one of the most delicate political issues for this White House at the center of its foreign policy agenda and, in turn, placing Democrats in the uncomfortable position of supporting policies they once criticized.

“Democrats are definitely in a box because they really would like to move Ukraine aid as soon as possible but Republicans have made super clear that they won’t move the package without border security,” said Kerri Talbot, executive director at the Immigration Hub.

“It’s a sad day that they’re considering such horrible proposals,” Talbot said.

The concessions floated by the administration in recent days are, in some cases, an extension of private discussions held in the White House over the course of Biden’s presidency that received blowback from immigrant advocates, sources told CNN.

One of those included a so-called safe third country proposal that would bar asylum seekers who passed through other countries. That idea was eventually squashed and doesn’t appear to be part of the current border talks anymore.

White House officials, for an extended time, also leaned on a pandemic measure known as Title 42 to quickly turn back migrants arrested at the border and eventually, expanded its use. The White House has supported an expulsion authority as part of the ongoing border negotiations that would likely have the same effect as Title 42. One of the triggers being discussed to use the authority is dependent on the number of border apprehensions, which would kick the expulsions into place, one source said.

The White House is also open to raising the credible fear standard for asylum seekers, more deportations and expanding detention, sources say. Taken together, the proposals would mark a significant shift in immigration law and amount to major concessions by the White House.

US Sen. Alex Padilla and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán, both California Democrats, released a statement this week pushing back on Republican immigration proposals and urging Biden to reject them. And, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus held a news conference Wednesday pushing back on some of the policies the administration was eyeing.

“Republicans continue to hold funding for America’s allies hostage at the expense of migrants and to pass Trump-era border policies,” Barragán said. “Republicans are pitting vulnerable groups against each other to strong arm policies that will exacerbate chaos at the southern border. We are urging the Biden administration to say no. Do not take the bait. We are calling on our colleagues to hold the line.”

For Biden, the politics of the moment are complicated. While losing support from the base could cost him at the polls next November, doing nothing could have broad and lasting implications as well. Over the past several weeks, border apprehensions have spiked, a major liability, Republicans argue, for not just the president but also his fellow Democrats heading into 2024.

“This is an opportunity. Honestly, if I were the president, looking at my numbers on this, I’d want to do something about it. It might actually improve his position,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this month.

And Democrats are trying to defend their majority in the Senate as incumbents face an onslaught of attacks back home over the border.

“Biden knows that if he doesn’t reduce the flows that are four times what we saw in the Trump administration, he’s got a huge political problem. And don’t take my word for it, take the voters of Montana’s word for it,” GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina said last month, referring to a hotly contested Senate race in the Treasure State.

Republicans and Democrats have been at an impasse for decades over immigration. But the contours of a border agreement today are far more narrow than past negotiations when more funding for border security was often paired with the legalization of immigrants who had already been living in the US illegally.

Immigrant advocates are concerned about the new bar the concessions set for future immigration deals.

“This is the new floor of a negotiation for any legalization. The floor is the most extreme policies since the 1920s. If that’s where we’re starting, what more will be asked for a simple exchange?” said Andrea Flores, vice president for immigration policy and campaigns at FWD.us.

“I’m surprised that some Democrats and the White House would make these huge concessions on policy without getting anything in return for Dreamers, DACA recipients, visa holders, anything at all,” Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said.

Asked about Democratic opposition that is emerging to some of the policies the White House has floated in the border talks, Sen. Chris Murphy contended that both sides are going to have to meet in the middle.

“I think it has always been clear that you’re going to need a lot of Democratic votes to get this passed given the number of Republicans that are never going to vote for Ukraine aid,” the Connecticut Democrat said.

“I think everybody in the room needs to be sensitive to the fact that you are going to need both Democratic votes and Republican votes. There is a package that is way too hot for Democrats. That is a package that is too weak for Republicans. This is the reason why we haven’t done immigration reform,” Murphy added.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas argued that the Democratic opposition was a positive sign in the talks: “Means we must be doing something right.”

Cornyn said “no” when asked if the White House proposals floated would be enough.

“It’s a start. It indicates we have their attention finally, but this ultimately needs to be decided by the president,” he said.

A major sticking point in border talks is over largely eliminating humanitarian parole, a mechanism that allows migrants to temporarily live in the United States on a case-by-case basis, according to a source familiar with the discussions.

The Biden administration has leaned on the so-called humanitarian parole authority in urgent situations, including to admit Afghans after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and Ukrainians following Russia’s invasion. Other times, the administration has used the authority to allow migrants from designated countries to temporarily live and work in the US as a way of attempting to mitigate surges at the US-Mexico border.

But Republicans argue that the administration is using the authority too broadly and are seeking to curb its use. It’s not clear what Democrats can accept when it comes to changing how parole authority is used, in part because it’s a key component of the administration’s border strategy.

“It would be a terrible mistake to tie border funding and policy to funding for two wars,” Castro said. “The issue of immigration and border security is one that should be negotiated on its own, not as a condition or tied to foreign aid funding.”

Lawmakers are divided over whether the Senate should stay in session and try to press ahead on a border package, with negotiators signaling progress and Cornyn saying that “it’s unlikely” the proposal could come together before the end of the year.

Senate Republican whip John Thune also said “it seems unlikely to me” that senators will stay in Washington past this week .

But some of the Senate negotiators say there has been significant movement that warrants sticking it out in Washington even into next week.

Asked if they would stay in session next week, Tillis replied, “I hope we are. I hope we’re here. I hope we’re negotiating, because we need to get this done. We need to do all – otherwise we push everything to the right. We have the opportunity to get the Senate on the same page, send something to the House, and they get to it when they get back.”

US House members appear set to leave Washington on Thursday for the remainder of the holiday season.

Source : CNN

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