December 13, 2023


Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning pleading for assistance included in a budget package currently stuck in Congress: Republican legislators are demanding, as the price for their support, new restrictions on asylum and other migration. “Has border simply been an excuse to kill Ukraine? Democrats are asking themselves that question,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).

CBS News reported that the White House is signaling willingness to go along with changes in the law that would sharply restrict the right to seek asylum on U.S. soil, which dates back to the United States’s 1968 ratification of the 1951 Refugee Convention and passage of the 1980 Refugee Act. The restrictions that the Biden administration might accept include:

  • “A new, far-reaching legal authority to allow U.S. border officials to summarily expel migrants without processing their asylum claims,” an item on Trump advisors’ wishlist that resembles the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsion authority—but without a public health justification. This proposal would require Mexico to be willing to take back expelled migrants, as it did for some nationalities during the pandemic.
  • A nationwide expansion, beyond the border region, of “expedited removal,” a process that requires asylum seekers to defend their claims without a court hearing, usually a few days after arriving, with little access to counsel or ability to prepare their cases.
  • Increasing the standard of “fear” that asylum seekers must meet in their initial screening interviews when placed in expedited removal.
  • Mandating “the detention of certain migrants who are allowed into the country pending the adjudication of their claims.”

The administration continues to resist restrictions to the 1950s-era authority to issue humanitarian parole, force asylum seekers to “remain in Mexico,” and other proposals Republicans have floated. It is unclear where the administration stands on the ideas of an annual cap on asylum applications or codifying a ban on asylum for people who could have sought it in transit through other countries.

The House and Senate are scheduled to adjourn their 2023 sessions on Thursday. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has said he would re-convene next week if negotiators reached an Ukraine-border deal, but sounded pessimistic about that happening. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said “it is practically impossible” to reach a deal before the holidays. The chief Republican negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), sounded a bit more optimistic, though he echoed that time is running out for a deal this year. Negotiator Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said he has “no confidence” in lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) and called for deeper White House involvement.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas spent about two hours on Capitol Hill meeting with Sens. Lankford, Murphy, Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), and Senate leaders’ aides. Sinema cited “substantive progress” and Murphy struck a similar note

A CBP release reported that a Guatemalan woman died on September 15 after falling from the 30-foot Trump-era border wall near Otay Mesa, southeast of San Diego. In mid-November, the New York Times reported that 350 victims of wall falls had been admitted in 2023 to the U.C. San Diego Health trauma center, up from zero in the 3 years before the wall’s 2019 renovation.

Mexico’s foreign ministry issued a statement calling on CBP to reopen the PedWest pedestrian crossing south of San Diego, one of two border bridges into Eagle Pass, Texas, and the entire Lukeville, Arizona port of entry. All are closed as CBP has diverted officers to help Border Patrol process large numbers of arriving migrants. People are waiting four or five hours in Tijuana to cross at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego. Arizona Senators Mark Kelly (D) and Kyrsten Sinema sent a letter urging President Biden to deploy the National Guard to help reopen the Lukeville crossing.

Migrants staying at southern Tijuana’s massive Agape shelter, many of them families, held a protest outside the U.S. consulate to demand more CBP One appointments.

A December 8 DHS statement noted that the Department has removed nearly 13,000 citizens of Venezuela from the United States. Some have been returned to Venezuela aboard eight deportation flights, the rest have been deported to Mexico under the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 asylum rule.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The directors of two UN agencies, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), published a column at Time arguing that efforts to deter migrants don’t work and that “the right strategy would tackle every stage of the journey, through a comprehensive and route-based approach of engagement.”

On the Right

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