March 4, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Why Senate Democrats are willing to swallow a border policy compromise

Why Senate Democrats are willing to swallow a border policy compromise

Tester said he was eager to see whether a bipartisan group of negotiators could reach an agreement on an elusive political issue like immigration. While he declined to commit to supporting the deal until he saw its details, he did not rule out supporting stronger border requirements. And he is not alone.

“I’m definitely fine with that [border policy] “Being part of the National Security Annex,” said Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), another Democrat facing re-election next year. Regarding changes to asylum policy, she said: “I would like to see us make some bipartisan progress, which has eluded us for years. “The system is broken.”

Efforts to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws have long been marked by failure, including a major hole five years ago over border security and legalization of those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While there is movement among some Senate Democrats toward meeting the GOP’s key demand that any aid to Ukraine and Israel be coupled with tougher border policies, others in the party are resisting that.

Democrats might not have thought about that if Republicans hadn’t drawn a red line earlier this fall on connecting the border with Ukraine. So far, talks between Democrats and Republicans have centered around tougher asylum standards, with many Democrats saying they could support lifting restrictions on immigrants so they can successfully seek asylum in the United States.

But senior negotiators separately indicated on Tuesday that they were no closer to reaching an agreement. The White House and Democrats are resisting changes to the parole system on humanitarian grounds, including forcing migrants to remain in Mexico or other countries while they wait to enter the United States, according to a person familiar with the talks. Republicans will not allow Democrats’ priorities on illegal immigrants known as “Dreamers” to be part of the discussions.

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The Biden administration — which has requested nearly $106 billion in funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the border — has maintained a hands-off approach to the bipartisan Senate negotiations. But officials expressed support for the talks. There is broader recognition that the party’s support could limit Democrats among immigration reform activists and independent voters.

Ultimately, Republicans say President Joe Biden will have to step in to finalize negotiations, especially if the six-member Senate cabal currently engaged in the talks falters.

“I don’t mean to disparage the people who are speaking out. But ultimately, this will be a deal that will be made between President Biden, the Senate Majority Leader [Chuck] Schumer, speaker [Mike] Johnson and the leader [Mitch] “McConnell,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Democrats are hesitant to tighten the parole system because the Biden administration has used the program’s executive flexibility to accept immigrants from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba and other countries. More broadly, progressives and immigrant rights groups say Democrats are already pandering to Republican demands without making any progress on their own immigration priorities, such as protecting DACA recipients or others brought to the country as undocumented children.

“Now is the time for Democrats to stand up and make clear what priorities they are fighting for for immigrant communities,” said Andrea Flores, Vice President for Immigration Policy and Campaigns. “Or will they simply accept radical, destructive changes?”

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said he is working to add a citizenship track to the negotiations, although Republicans have said that is a non-starter. However, he refused to rule out supporting changes to asylum standards. He added: “The devil is in the details.”

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Like other vulnerable Democrats in next year’s session, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has also said he’s open to including border security policies if that’s what it takes to provide money to Ukraine and combat the fentanyl epidemic.

But progressives may be less open to border restrictions.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the policy “will be good for some and not for others.”

So far, there is not much for the left to be happy about. The Republican Party’s rejection of Democrats’ immigration priorities and its insistence that Democrats go beyond simply raising asylum standards have made some Democrats pessimistic about the outlook.

“I certainly fear that Republicans will find it difficult to accept yes for an answer. “But we will keep working,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the Democrats’ chief negotiator.

However, the narrow 51-member Democratic majority cannot make a move without at least nine Republicans given the Senate’s 60-vote requirement. Many Senate Republicans support more funding for Ukraine, but they appear intent on using their influence, in part to try to create a bill that Speaker Johnson might take up in the House.

McConnell, a longtime friend of Biden, said he called the president last week “to make sure he understands there will be no bill without a credible effort” to restrict the flow of migrants to the southern border.

But this position puts Democrats in a difficult position: To get aid to Ukraine, they must reach an agreement on the highly sensitive issue of immigration.

“There are some people who have said there can be no progress on Ukraine without a border agreement,” said Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), one of the six negotiators.

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When Schumer was asked about raising asylum standards, he refused to answer directly and simply said, “We need a bipartisan bill.” He plans to force a vote as soon as next week on the Biden administration’s full $106 billion additional spending request, which Republicans say they will block without including tough new restrictions on border policy.

“Maybe we should do this to show Democrats who might question Republican resolve on this issue,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-R).

If the vote fails, it will extend the time since Congress last approved aid to Ukraine late last year. Without a government funding deadline until January, the Senate will have to prepare a recess surprise very quickly to signal to Kiev that more aid from the United States is coming.

Mia Ward and Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.