December 15, 2023


The House of Representatives has adjourned for the year, and its Republican leadership is showing little willingness to come back before the body is scheduled to re-convene, during the second week of January. However, the Democratic-majority Senate, which was also scheduled to adjourn yesterday, remains in session. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is keeping the Senate open during the week of December 18. This would give more time to negotiators trying to hammer out a deal that would fund the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in Ukraine and Israel aid (along with border funding and other priorities), while incorporating Republicans’ demand that it come with historic new restrictions on the right to asylum and other migrant protections at the U.S.-Mexico border.

No additional news has emerged about what these likely restrictions might be; as previous daily links posts explain, they appear to involve a new Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers, expansion of expedited removal with tougher screening criteria, and more detention of asylum seekers. Democrats appear to continue resisting Republican demands for a rollback of the 1950s-era presidential authority to grant temporary humanitarian parole, which currently benefits 30,000 people per month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela plus Ukrainiains.

A small group of senators from both parties has been negotiating the migration restrictions, now with frequent Biden administration input—including a meeting yesterday evening with White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and Legislative Affairs Director Shuwanza Goff. Democratic negotiators (and former Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, I-Arizona) are sounding notes of optimism about reaching a deal next week, though Republicans not at the table sound more skeptical, and the possibility of the House passing a resulting bill before 2024 is very slim. “Many GOP senators, and maybe some Democrats, will not come to Washington next week because there’s no real expectation of a deal,” a Senate aide told the Messenger.

Democratic legislators not at the negotiating table, many of them Latino, are complaining about being in the dark about what is under discussion. Some of those quoted include Sens. Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Alex Padilla (D-California), and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey). Durbin is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and longtime immigration-reform advocate, and Padilla chairs the Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety. Axios reported that senior White House officials have called some Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Progressive Caucus members.

Border Patrol agents speaking anonymously to the conservative Washington Examiner said they doubted that the proposed changes would reduce migration at the border. Agents instead demanded more removals and deportations, which would either require Mexico’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of removed migrants, or a multiplication of costly deportation flights at a time when both pilots and aircraft are in short supply nationwide.

The San Diego-Tijuana migrant-rights defense group Al Otro Lado has documented 1,081 family separations, including 400 separations of spouses and 200 separations of adult children of parents, during Border Patrol’s recent processing of increased arrivals of asylum seekers in the San Diego Sector.

An intense gun battle between Mexican criminal factions close to the border wall near Sásabe, Sonora led Border Patrol to evacuate humanitarian workers and construction contractors in a remote part of Arizona on December 13.

Analyses and Feature Stories

At his Americas Migration Brief newsletter, Jordi Amaral laid out “Five Migration Trends in the Americas to Watch in 2024.” Spoiler alert: they are maritime migration, Haiti’s crisis, climate change, integration efforts, and upcoming elections.

Daniel González of the Austin American-Statesman visited the crowded segment of the Mexico-Guatemala border near Tapachula, finding that migrant deaths are surging, often due to road accidents involving unsafe transport vehicles.

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