December 11, 2023

Developments

In talks that resumed on December 7, Senate negotiators appear to have made little progress toward a deal that could win Republican support for the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 million for Ukraine, Israel, and other priorities. As the price for their votes, Republicans are demanding changes to U.S. law that would reduce access to asylum, humanitarian parole, and similar migrant protections.

“First thing’s first is asylum,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the chief Republican negotiator on a possible deal, told Face the Nation. “Right now, people come in and say, I want to request asylum. There’s so many people, and the cartels know it, and the smugglers know, that they can throw thousands of people a day. There’s no way to process that.”

“Three sources with knowledge of the talks” told NBC News that, with White House involvement, negotiators are near agreement on raising the standard of “credible fear” that asylum seekers must meet in initial screening interviews at the border. This proposal outrages migrant rights defenders because of the risk that many asylum seekers may be sent back to danger. On Meet the Press, the Democrats’ chief negotiator, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), said, “We are willing to talk about tightening some of the rules, so that you don’t have 10,000 people arriving a day. Our resources are not equipped to be able to handle that number of people. So, let’s reduce the number of people who are coming here, but let’s not shut down the border completely to legitimate claims.”

“Three sources with knowledge of the talks” tell NBC News that Republicans are also calling to restrict use of the presidential “humanitarian parole” authority, which dates back to the 1950s, except for Cuban migrants. Other possible Republican demands, CNN reported, may include more electronic monitoring of asylum seekers, including children, released into the United States, and sending more asylum seekers to “safe third countries.”

CBP’s port of entry in remote Lukeville, Arizona remains closed, as the border crossing’s personnel have been pulled away to help process daily arrivals of asylum seekers and other migrants in Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, where agents apprehended 18,900 people during the week ending December 7 (2,700 per day). “Because Lukeville is so remote, Border Patrol staffing is light, so traffickers in the region controlled by Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel steer people there,” the Associated Press noted.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) visited the Lukeville area and called for the border crossing’s reopening and pledging to deploy the state’s National Guard if the situation continues. Hobbs sent President Joe Biden a letter calling for “$512,529,333 in reimbursements for ongoing border operations resulting from the federal government’s failure to secure the Arizona border.”

The five-day average of migrant arrivals (3,407) is even higher in Border Patrol’s Del Rio, Texas sector where—despite a massive array of border security measures laid out by the state government’s “Operation Lone Star”—Border Patrol apprehended 17,034 people in five days.

Near Jacumba Hot Springs, California, just over an hour’s drive east of San Diego, “a total daily average of 800 people are in three camps,” Agence France-Presse reported.

A CBS News poll finds 20 percent of U.S. respondents naming “immigration and the Border” to be the “most important problem facing the United States.” Only “inflation” (27 percent) scored higher.

Although Mexico’s migration agency (INM) is reportedly out of money for deportations and travel for what remains of 2023, the agency returned 47 unaccompanied Guatemalan minors back to Guatemala over the December 9-10 weekend. Still, news of Mexico’s suspension of deportations may be encouraging migrants, like some interviewed by the daily Milenio, to speed their progress across the country.

San Diego U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw approved a court settlement, in litigation brought by the ACLU, that would prohibit any revival of a “family separation” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border for the next eight years.

Analyses and Feature Stories

CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility released an annual report, covering 2022, about internal investigations and employee accountability. The report found no increase in disciplinary actions taken against agency personnel compared to 2021. The National Use of Force Review Board looked at five serious use-of-force incidents and recommended no discipline.

The Ciudad Juárez-based La Verdad reported from several parts of Mexico about the severe toll that migrating across Mexico takes on women.

A Washington Post editorial called for more processing of migrants and more assistance to countries along the U.S.-bound migration route that could be giving in-transit migrants greater opportunity to settle there.

On the Right

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