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The Congressional Border Deal

February 8, 2024 by Scot Wilson

On Sunday, February 4, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a compromise bill intended to address border security concerns and to provide further funding for Ukraine’s military defense against Russia.1 In this post, we will examine the immigration-related contents of the compromise legislation and explore different perspectives about the border security bill.

What Is in the Border Security Agreement?

The border security bill includes $20 billion in investments to:

  • hire new Border Patrol officials;
  • hire employees to process asylum requests;
  • provide funding for shelters and services in cities struggling to meet the needs of new immigrants;
  • expand detention facilities to hold those who cross the border illegally; and,
  • increase screenings for fentanyl and other illicit drugs.2

Additionally, the border security bill would increase the scrutiny of those seeking asylum to screen some applicants out of the process more quickly to preserve resources.3 The goal of many of the provisions connected to the asylum process would be to reduce the wait time from 5-7 years to six months. Over the next five years, the agreement would allow an additional 50,000 immigrant visas each year and would establish faster pathways to permanent status for people from Afghanistan who resettled in the United States.4

FURTHER READING: White House List of Provisions in the Bill

In addition to these provisions, the bill would give the president the authority to close the border if the number of migrant encounters exceeds 4,000 per day over the course of a week, and would automatically close the border if the number of encounters exceeds a daily average of 5,000 during a week or exceeds 8,500 on any single day.5

WATCH: The Associated Press Outlines the Senate Bill

What Are Supporters of the Bill Saying About the Immigration Provisions?

Although this border security bill was developed in a bipartisan manner in the Senate, there is no guarantee that the bill will pass. Advocating for the bill, President Joe Biden said, “It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation.”6

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who was a lead negotiator on the bill, argued that fellow Republicans who are skeptical about the bill should appreciate that the legislation “clears up a lot of the long-term issues and loopholes that have existed in the asylum law and it gives us an emergency authority that stops the chaos right now on the border.”7

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I–Ariz.) was also a lead negotiator on the border security bill. “America is and continues to be a bastion of hope for true asylum seekers,” she said. “But it is not an open door for economic migrants. It has been, as we know, exploited dramatically by cartels in the last four to five years.”8

What Are Opponents of the Bill Saying About the Immigration Provisions?

This bill faces scrutiny both from progressive activists and from conservatives and supporters of former President Donald Trump. For example, Leah Greenberg, co-executive director of Indivisible, a progressive organization, said they oppose “bringing back failed Trump-era immigration policies, and we oppose handing a future Republican president new powers to inflict their cruel agenda on migrants and asylum seekers.”9

“I am still reviewing the text of this proposal, which was constructed under Republican hostage-taking and refusal to fund aid for Ukraine without cruelty toward immigrants,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a progressive member of the House of Representatives.10

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who is a leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, said, “Joe Biden will never enforce any new law and refuses to use the tools he already has today to end this crisis. I cannot vote for this bill. Americans will turn to the upcoming election to end the border crisis.”11

Former President Trump, the leading Republican candidate for president, also opposes the bill and urged congressional Republicans to not pass the bill. “This is a gift to Democrats, and this, sort of, is a shifting of the worst border in history onto the shoulders of Republicans. That’s really what they want. They want this for the presidential election, so they can now blame the Republicans for the worst border in history.”12

What’s Next?

The bipartisan border security bill already appears to have stalled, as many Republican legislators have said they oppose the bill. “Any consideration of this Senate bill in its current form is a waste of time,” Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a joint statement with Republican leaders on Monday. “It is dead on arrival in the House. We encourage the U.S. Senate to reject it.”13

President Biden is continuing to push for the border security bill and will likely campaign on the issue. “Now, all indications are this bill won’t even move forward to the Senate floor,” said President Biden. “Why? A simple reason: Donald Trump. Because Donald Trump thinks it’s bad for him politically, even though it helps the country. He’d rather weaponize the issue than actually solve it.”14

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think immigration is a high priority issue for the government to address? Why or why not?
  2. Which of the provisions in the border security legislation do you support, if any? Which do you oppose?
  3. Members of Congress have attempted to create compromise bills to solve immigration issues many times since the presidency of George W. Bush. Each effort at major reforms has stalled. Why do you think that immigration is such a challenging issue for legislators to solve?
  4. What would be your priorities if you were proposing changes to immigration policy?

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As always, we encourage you to join the discussion with your comments or questions below.

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Featured Image Credit: Eric Gay/AP
[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-senate-unveils-118-billion-bipartisan-bill-tighten-border-security-aid-2024-02-04/#:~:text=WASHINGTON%2C%20Feb%204%20(Reuters),from%20the%20House%20of%20Representatives.
[2] Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/senate-releases-long-awaited-border-legislation
[3] The White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/02/04/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-calls-on-congress-to-immediately-pass-the-bipartisan-national-security-agreement/
[4] Ibid.
[5] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/05/us/politics/senate-border-ukraine-deal.html
[6] The White House: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/02/04/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-calls-on-congress-to-immediately-pass-the-bipartisan-national-security-agreement/
[7] Associated Press: https://apnews.com/article/congress-border-security-ukraine-15e2e3fac2b29b5b4bbe1eae8eb1c924
[8] Ibid.
[9] The Hill: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4449866-the-memo-gops-border-bill-outrage-underscores-a-political-shift/
[10] Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pramila-jayapal-says-biden-caved-extremist-views-bipartisan-border-deal
[11] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/06/us/politics/border-republicans-ukraine-bill.html
[12] The Hill: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/4449600-trump-border-bill-very-bad-lankfords-career/
[13] New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/04/us/politics/senate-border-deal-immigration-ukraine.html
[14] ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-blames-trump-border-deal-now-teetering-collapse/story?id=106990958


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