January 11, 2024


A small group of senators continues to negotiate a deal that might allow the Biden administration’s request for a big package of aid to Ukraine and Israel, border funding, and other priorities to move forward in the chamber. In exchange for supporting the bill, Republicans continue to demand restrictions on the right to seek asylum, as well as on other legal migration pathways. They appear to be near agreement on raising standards that asylum seekers must meet in “credible fear” interviews, and on expelling asylum seekers into Mexico, Title 42-style, when daily migrant numbers reach a certain threshold or when migrants do not specifically request asylum.

Democratic negotiators continue to resist Republicans’ insistence that any agreement include a numerical cap or other tight limits on the presidential authority—which dates back to the 1950s—to offer temporary parole to migrants on humanitarian grounds. It is not fully clear whether Republicans are targeting the Biden program to parole citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Ukraine, or more specifically the use of parole to release asylum seekers from the border into the U.S. interior, following “CBP One” appointments at ports of entry, while their cases await adjudication.

CBS News reported that the Senate negotiations’ scope has expanded beyond asylum and parole to include “conversations about Afghan evacuees, the children of high-skilled visa-holders, and work permits for asylum-seekers,” items that could sweeten the deal for Democratic legislators.

Republican senators are sounding skeptical about whether a deal that might satisfy them can be reached, and cast strong doubt on whether any legislative language might emerge this week.

They pointed out, too, that whatever gets agreed must then go to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where demands for limits on asylum and legal migration may be even stiffer. “We cannot be involved in securing the border of Ukraine or other nations until we secure our own,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) told a conservative radio host. “And so that border fight is coming, and we’re going to die on that hill.” Johnson called for more border wall and a revival of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, which does not appear to have been a significant demand in Senate negotiations. Johnson and President Biden discussed border policy in a January 10 phone call.

House Republicans began their effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with a lengthy hearing in the Homeland Security Committee, at which they argued that Mayorkas has failed to do his duty to secure the border. A letter from a group of law scholars argued that the Constitution does not allow impeachment for alleged “maladministration,” only “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The first days of January have seen a sharp drop in migration through the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama. The Panamanian government’s migration director said the drop could be caused by a bridge collapse near Necoclí, Colombia and by increasing use of aerial routes to Nicaragua, which avoid the Darién entirely.

Just over 1,000 migrants continue to participate in a “caravan” in southern Mexico, a regrouped remnant of a much larger migration and protest that began at Christmas. They are now in Oaxaca, having walked through Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas; Mexican authorities are allowing participants to walk but prohibiting anyone from transporting them in vehicles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from the Migration Policy Institute called for significant investments in migrant processing and ports of entry at the border, federal mechanisms to help direct migrants to communities that wish to accommodate them, more diplomatic coordination with countries along the route, and vastly more investment in asylum adjudication, among other recommendations.

Reuters accompanied the difficult journey of migrants aboard a Texas state government-funded bus from Brownsville, Texas to Chicago.

“Today, liberals describe border-security measures that the Democratic Party once would have favored as severe, cruel or ‘Trump-era,’” wrote New York Times columnist David Leonhardt.

Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda asked why President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn’t demand more from the United States as a precondition for Mexico performing “containment” of U.S.-bound migrants.

Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy doubted, in a Forbes column, that Mexico might agree to some of the cross-border expulsions, deportations, and “Remain in Mexico” referrals that would result from Republican demands for stricter limits on asylum.

On the Right

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