Intense opposition to U.S. Senate immigration deal quickly emerges
WASHINGTON — The proposed global security funding legislation that includes major bipartisan updates to immigration policy encountered opposition from members of both parties Monday, especially Republicans upset by the Biden administration’s handling of border security, charting a tumultuous path for passage in the Senate this week.
The deal on immigration policy, negotiated for months by a bipartisan trio of senators, aims to stem migration at the Southern border. It spurred bipartisan ire in both chambers after its introduction Sunday night as some Republicans said it would not force the Biden administration to take more action and some Democrats argued it would undermine the asylum system.
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U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm for Senate Republicans, blamed the Biden administration for rolling back Trump-era immigration policies.
“President Biden could have secured the border on Day One of his presidency and chose not to and the disastrous results speak for themselves,” the Montana Republican said in a statement.
President Joe Biden told reporters Monday that the bill would give him tools he needed to control the border.
His critics call the border “out of control,” he said.
“Well guess what? Everything in that bipartisan bill gives me control, gives us control,” he said during a campaign stop in Las Vegas.
The bill “still meets the needs” of people seeking to immigrate legally, he added.
The bill’s supporters, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, urged critics to accept the deal.
“This bipartisan agreement is not perfect, but given all the dangers facing America, it is the comprehensive package our country needs right now,” Schumer, a Democrat of New York, said on the Senate floor Monday.
A procedural vote is set for Wednesday, which Schumer called “the most important (vote) that the Senate has taken in a very long time.”
Even though Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, support the immigration deal and the $118.28 billion supplemental package to aid Ukraine, Israel, Indo-Pacific region and U.S. border security, many senators are expressing their displeasure after the nearly 400-page bill was released late Sunday.
The immigration deal was negotiated by the White House and Sens. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Kyrsten Sinema, an independent from Arizona.
Changes would include raising the bar for migrants to claim asylum, creating a temporary procedure to shut down the border at particularly active times and an end to the practice of allowing migrants to live in the United States while they wait for their cases to be heard by an immigration judge, among other policies.
“Our immigration laws have been weak for years,” Lankford said in a statement Sunday. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to close our open border and give future administrations the effective tools they need to stop the border chaos and protect our nation.”
The Senate will consider the immigration overhaul and global aid package as a single bill after Senate Republicans insisted on tying the supplemental aid package for policy changes at the Southern border.
Many Senate Republicans reject deal
Several Republican senators came out against the package, less than 24 hours after it was introduced.
On X, formerly known as Twitter, Republican Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Budd of North Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott of Florida, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Roger Marshall of Kansas and J.D. Vance of Ohio already said they will not vote for the package.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee called to instead pass a hard-right immigration bill the House passed last year known as H.R. 2. That bill would resume the construction of a barrier along the Southern border and reestablish Trump-era immigration policies.
Republican Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska said in a statement that she would not support the bill because it “falls short” of securing the border.
In a Fox News appearance Monday, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin expressed displeasure at the immigration bill, which he said “appears even worse than we feared.”
Alabama’s GOP Sen. Katie Britt said in a statement that she is not supportive of the bill because of the president’s current immigration policies at the Southern border.
“At every step along the way, President Biden has made it clear that he doesn’t want to end the border crisis – he wants to enable it,” she said. “Ultimately, this bill would not effectively block President Biden from executing that very agenda, and I won’t support it.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, is pushing for a process to add amendments “to try to improve the bill,” he said in a statement. He added that if amendments are not allowed, then “the bill will die because of process.”
“Like many others, I am open-minded on steps we can take to make the bill stronger,” Graham said. “That can only come through the amendment process.”
Even Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate in the Senate Republican Caucus, did not indicate whether she would support the package.
In a statement, Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Appropriations, said she was pleased that her provisions to speed up work permits for migrants were included in the immigration section of the supplemental package.
The union that represents about 18,000 U.S. Border Patrol agents has endorsed the bill.
Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, said the bill’s enforcement provisions “will give U.S. Border Patrol agents authorities codified, in law, that we have not had in the past.”
“While not perfect, the Border Act of 2024 is a step in the right direction and is far better than the current status quo,” Judd said.
Latino Democrats also object
Adding to the bill’s detractors, two Latino Democratic senators voiced opposition to the bill Monday. They argued it contains many hard-right policies reminiscent of the Trump administration and does not include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people brought into the country as children, often referred to as Dreamers.
“Major chunks of this legislation read like an enforcement wish list from the Trump administration, and directly clash with the most basic tenets of our asylum system,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said in a statement.
California’s Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla said he strongly supported the bill’s foreign military and humanitarian aid funding, “but not at the expense of dismantling our asylum system while ultimately failing to alleviate the challenges at our border.”
The global security supplemental includes $60 billion to support Ukraine in its war against Russia; $14.1 billion in assistance for Israel; and $10 billion in humanitarian assistance “to provide food, water, shelter, medical care, and other essential services to civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, Ukraine, and other populations caught in conflict zones across the globe,” according to a summary.
Outlook worse in House
House Republicans, who hold a slim majority in that chamber, have already thrown cold water on the package.
Hours after the bill was released, House Speaker Mike Johnson wrote on X that the Senate bill is “dead on arrival” in the House.
Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee who moved articles of impeachment for Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, said in a statement that he will “vehemently oppose any agreement that legitimizes or normalizes any level of illegal immigration.”
“I’ve seen enough,” the Louisiana Republican said. “This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created.”
A vote on the House floor for the impeachment of Mayorkas, which is driven by House Republicans’ disagreement over policies at the Southern border, could come as early as Wednesday.