For years, immigration in the United States has been a “political football.” Unfortunately, the failure of the U.S. Congress to agree to a framework for immigrants wanting to enter the United States has caused grievous harm to many individuals and families, many simply fleeing the violence of their country to find new opportunities across the border in the United States. Additionally, there are millions of immigrants who were brought to the United States as children—very young children—and who have known no other country but the United States but who have no right to remain here.
The Congress, under Democratic control, has tried many times to develop a bipartisan solution to immigration challenges, but each time proposals have failed, in many cases with bipartisan support. Now, Senate Republicans—with President Biden having submitted a supplemental funding request for money for Ukraine and Israel—have decided it is time to address immigration. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans are seeking drastic limitations on asylum (the right to stay in the U.S. if specific pre-conditions are met) and on other immigration funding by demanding that their proposals be attached to any budget supplemental that includes funding for Ukraine and Israel. Republicans know the supplemental funding is essential and they are willing to hold it hostage to achieve their immigration demands.
Among the proposals Republicans would change is the U.S. asylum law, including a rule that would render any migrant ineligible for asylum if the person transited through a third country without seeking refuge. Additionally, migrants would only be allowed to request protection at official ports of entry. Migrants screened for asylum would have to meet a higher evidentiary standard or be deported immediately.
The Republican proposal would revive the Trump-era, “Remain in Mexico” policy and it would create a new authority to allow immigration agents to summarily expel migrants if doing so would threaten U.S. security. If the Republican proposal were to be adopted, it would allow the U.S. government to detain migrant families with children indefinitely. Finally, the Republican proposal would demand reconstructing the so called “border wall” with Mexico.
Democrats have made clear that they are against these extreme proposals. However, with money for Ukraine and Israel on the line—and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell making clear that he will not support funding for Ukraine and Israel without including funding for border security and changes to immigration—the Democrats may not have a strong hand to play.
This weekend a bipartisan group of Senators will be negotiating a compromise. Democrats are not hopeful, and Republicans want to use maximum leverage to achieve restrictive immigration proposals. We will continue to update our readers as these talks continue.