December 14, 2023


A group of senators met late into yesterday evening to negotiate a deal to approve the Biden administration’s $110.5 billion request for emergency funds for Ukraine, Israel, the border, and other priorities. The request is held up by Republican insistence that it come with new restrictions on asylum and other migration protections. The U.S. Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the year today, though Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) scheduled votes for tomorrow in order to keep the chamber in session if necessary. House leadership has indicated no schedule changes.

“We made progress today,” said top Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut). “We’re not there yet but we continue to head in the right direction. I think it’s more reason for everybody to stay in town, get this done.” Top Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said earlier Wednesday, “There has been movement on both sides.”

One of the negotiators, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), confirmed a December 12 CBS News scoop that the Biden administration was willing to consider a new presidential authority to shut off asylum and expel asylum seekers, Title 42-style, without a public health justification. Tillis said that the proposal would work on a “stadium is full” model: once a day’s Border Patrol apprehensions reach a certain level, asylum would be shut off. Tillis suggested a threshold of “south of 3,000” apprehensions per day, which is lower than any monthly average since January 2021.

Republican negotiators are also demanding expansion of “expedited removal,” a rapid screening procedure in lieu of immigration court, including for migrants in the U.S. interior. That would come with a requirement that migrants being screened prove a higher standard of fear of death, torture, or persecution. At Slow Boring, the American Immigration Council’s Dara Lind explained why expanding expedited removal would have “no implications for short-term border security, or the handling of new asylum cases, and will in no way alleviate the logistical burdens the administration is wrestling with.”

Progressive legislators and migrants’ rights defense groups voiced outrage at signs of administration willingness to go along with such a deal. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus held a well-attended press conference outside the Capitol. “Alienating the progressive wing of the party is almost a necessary ingredient of finishing a border deal,” Politico observed.

Unnamed DHS officials told NBC News that mandatory detentions of migrants, one of the proposals under senators’ consideration, “would break the border” as detention facilities filled up.

Border Patrol apprehended 8,253 migrants border-wide on December 12, a high figure but down from over 10,200 7 days earlier. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador shared a slide showing that U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border increased from 53,016 during the first week of November to 69,462 during the first week of December, or 31 percent. The top Border Patrol sectors during December 1-7 were Tucson, Arizona (19,935), Del Rio, Texas (15,702), and San Diego, California (12,062).

In an effort to slow migrant arrivals in the Tucson Sector, Mexico’s national and state governments are launching a “Migration Containment Plan” in the state of Sonora, with increased military and police filters and road checkpoints at bus stations and on main roads.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Niskanen Center obtained data about the “Safe Mobility Offices” that the U.S. government has established this year in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Though operating so far at a small scale, these “SMOs” have referred 10,000 migrants to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and about 2,500 refugees have arrived in the United States so far.

Citing data from Honduras’s migration agency, UNHCR noted a sharp drop in migration through Honduras from October (a record 102,008 migrants registered) to November (59,787), the fewest in a month since July. Migrants from Haiti (35,529 to 5,438) decreased most sharply, though migration from number-one country Venezuela also fell (34,547 to 26,440). Of 187 migrants whom UNHCR polled, 96 percent got their information from WhatsApp and only 38 percent had eaten three meals the day before.

An NPR analysis of Republican presidential candidates’ positions on border and migration showed unanimity on most issues, but some disagreement over the harshest proposals.

The Associated Press debunked claims by Mark Lamb, an Arizona county sheriff running for Senate, that asylum seekers released into the United States are “being given a cell phone, a plane ticket to wherever they want to go in this country, so probably to a community near you, and a $5,000 Visa card.”

On the Right

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