President Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill are seriously considering Republican demands for deeply restrictive immigration policies in exchange for billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, a move that activists say would devastate America's obligations to give welcoming desperate immigrants fleeing war and oppression.
Biden has said he is willing to make “significant commitments” on border security to satisfy Republicans, who will not support more aid for Ukraine without a new crackdown on immigration.
Last week, Republicans blocked a $111 billion emergency spending bill, which includes about $50 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, and made a counteroffer that amounted to a wish list of the Trump era for the border.
Biden has accused Republicans of holding military aid to Ukraine hostage in exchange for “an extreme Republican partisan agenda on the border.”
Here's a look at the state of negotiations:
What Republicans want
Republicans have said they want to make it more difficult to obtain asylum in the United States, a demand the White House has indicated it is willing to consider.
But Republicans say that's not enough.
They also want to reinstate policies that would quickly turn people away at the border or force them to wait in Mexico until their asylum case is heard. Former President Donald J. Trump used those methods to effectively close the border to migrants during his administration.
Republicans are seeking to expand a policy known as “expedited removal” to quickly deport undocumented immigrants. They also want to restrict the use of an immigration policy known as humanitarian parole, which has allowed thousands of Afghans, Ukrainians and others fleeing war and violence to come to the United States.
Republicans say the reform is necessary to address border crossings that have recently surpassed 10,000 a day.
What the White House would consider
The White House has signaled it is open to several Republican proposals, according to Biden administration officials, lawmakers from both parties and people familiar with the matter.
According to people involved in the talks, Democrats have agreed in principle to raise the standards that immigrants must meet when they say they need asylum in the United States because they fear persecution in their home countries.
The White House has also said it would consider a policy similar to the Trump-era emergency rule known as Title 42, which empowered border agents to quickly expel migrants at the border, according to Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina participating in the talks.
The White House included some GOP demands in the emergency funding request that Republicans blocked, such as a significant expansion of detention capacity. The bill dedicated more than $4 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to expand detention facilities at the border.
And the White House has considered the idea of reinstating the practice of detaining immigrant families who cross the border together, another element of the latest GOP proposal.
But other Republican proposals could be difficult for the White House to accept, such as forcing immigrants to remain in Mexico while their cases are heard and restricting humanitarian parole. The White House has emphasized that it has not approved any of the proposals.
Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, declined to comment Wednesday on the specific immigration proposals being discussed in the negotiations.
“We have to find a bipartisan compromise,” Jean-Pierre said.
The White House faces pressure from all sides.
The southern border has been a big problem for Biden, who has been unable to stem the tide of crossings. The negotiations have only highlighted a crisis that has sparked a bipartisan backlash against Biden.
The negotiations also get to the heart of Biden's foreign policy. The president has promised to support Ukraine's fight against Russian invaders for as long as necessary and has characterized the aid as a matter of American credibility.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine was in Washington this week, pressing lawmakers and warning that his country will lose the war without American support.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, has asked Speaker Mike Johnson to keep the House in session next week so members can have more time to negotiate.
“If Republicans really want to do something at the border, why are so many in a hurry to leave?” Schumer said Wednesday.
But pessimism was increasing.
“I think we're a long way from being close to any kind of agreement,” said Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
Meanwhile, progressive Democrats and immigration advocates are furious that the White House is even considering restrictions proposed by Republicans.
“How will they credibly campaign against Trump’s immigration agenda when they are the ones leading the fight to make it law?” said Andrea Flores, former director of border management at the National Security Council. “They are going against the entire party to support the most exclusionary immigration policies in more than 100 years.”
Hamed Aleaziz contributed reporting.
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