Senate negotiators on Sunday released the text of the much-anticipated border deal that lawmakers have been hashing out with White House officials since December, incorporating significant reforms, including a crackdown on asylum and parole.
Talks have been ongoing for months as a bipartisan group of lawmakers — Sens. James Lankford, Krysten Sinema, and Chris Murphy — have tried to strike a deal with White House officials to fix the crisis at the southern border. The deal would be included in supplemental spending that includes billions in foreign assistance to Ukraine and Israel.
The agreement holds the potential to allocate $60 billion to Ukraine and $14 billion to Israel, yet its passage through the House appears doubtful. House Republicans have deemed the bill a non-starter unless it incorporates essential components from H.R.2, the House GOP border bill. With Senate Democrats dismissing H.R.2, tensions persist.
Meanwhile, Johnson vowed to put $17.6 billion in emergency funding on the House floor next week to give Israel assistance.
In the Biden administration’s original supplemental request, officials sought over $100 billion in funding, including $14 billion for the border. But Republicans demanded limits on migrant releases into the interior, including the use of parole, and negotiators have been attempting to find a compromise.
“While the Senate appears poised to finally release the text of their supplemental package after months of behind-closed-doors negotiations, their leadership is aware that by failing to include the House in their negotiations, they have eliminated the ability for swift consideration of any legislation,” Johnson said.
Sunday’s proposed legislation will total just over $118 billion, with 50,000 new visas.
The border proposal, which took months to negotiate, is aimed at gaining control of an asylum system that has been overwhelmed by historic numbers of migrants coming to the border. The bill proposes an overhaul to the system with tougher and quicker enforcement measures.
If the number of illegal border crossings reaches above 5,000 daily for a five-day average, an expulsion authority would automatically kick in so that migrants are sent back to Mexico without an opportunity to make an asylum claim. If the number reaches 4,000, presidential administrations would have the option of using the expulsion authority.
Biden, referencing the authority, has said he would use it to “shut down the border” as soon as the bill is signed into law.
The bill would allot $20 billion to immigration enforcement, including the hiring of thousands of new officers to evaluate asylum claims, as well as hundreds of Border Patrol agents. Some of that money would go to shelters and services in cities across the U.S. that have struggled to keep up with the influx of migrants in recent months.
Migrants who seek asylum, which provides protection for people facing persecution in their home countries, would face a tougher and faster process to having their claim evaluated. The standard in initial interviews, known as credible fear screenings, would be raised, and many would receive those interviews within days of arriving at the border. Final decisions on their asylum claims would happen within months, rather than the often years-long wait that happens now.
On the agreement, President Biden said there “is more work to be done to get it over the finish line.”
“I want to be clear about something: If you believe, as I do, that we must secure the border now, doing nothing is not an option. Working with my administration, the United States Senate has done the hard work it takes to reach a bipartisan agreement,” Biden said.
“Now, House Republicans have to decide. Do they want to solve the problem? Or do they want to keep playing politics with the border? I’ve made my decision. I’m ready to solve the problem. I’m ready to secure the border. And so are the American people.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said the bipartisan border security package “fixes” the border crisis.
“Now, senators must make a decision: pass our package and solve the crisis or accept the status quo, do nothing, and keep playing politics while our system breaks and our communities continue to suffer,” Sinema said. “I choose to secure the border, protect Arizona border communities, fix our broken system, and finally solve the border crisis.”
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Americans were “tired of the chaos and abuse at our border.”
“I am happy to announce, we have finally finished strong bill text to add to the supplemental funding bill. Though most members of the Senate have already been briefed on the contents of the bill, the final text will be distributed to members of the Senate soon and posted online within a day.”
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell blamed the border crisis on the Biden administration.
“It is time to force the President to start cleaning up his mess and equip future leaders with a system that works and new emergency tools to restore order,” he said.
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a vote on the package could come as early as Wednesday.
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