Daily Border Links: January 18, 2024

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President Biden hosted top congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, where senior administration officials urged them to approve a $110.5 billion request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, border efforts, and other priorities. Congressional Republicans are holding up the request with demands for changes to U.S. law that would reduce migrants’ access to asylum and other legal pathways.

Senate leaders said that they are close to a deal that might allow the legislation to move ahead as early as next week. That deal might include a Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when migrant encounters exceed a daily threshold. It might also require asylum seekers subjected to “credible fear” screening interviews to prove a higher standard of threat.

Democrats continue to resist Republican demands that the deal restrict the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant temporary humanitarian parole to some migrants. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) said that parole is the chief Republican demand that remains unresolved.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) indicated that his chamber’s Republican majority will demand even stricter measures than what is likely to emerge from Senate negotiations, like a reinstatement of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy. Republican senators are pushing back, insisting that stricter measures cannot pass the Democratic-majority Senate.

On Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham told Speaker Johnson that ex-president Donald Trump told her he opposes the likely Senate deal and wants Johnson to oppose it too. As most House Republicans are tightly loyal to Trump, this is a severe blow to the funding package’s prospects.

A delegation of Mexican government officials, led by the secretaries of foreign relations, defense, and navy, will be in Washington on Friday to discuss migration with the U.S. secretaries of state and homeland security.

The House of Representatives passed a brief resolution “denouncing the Biden administration’s open-borders policies.” Fourteen Democrats voted for it, including two representing south Texas border districts.

On Thursday the House Homeland Security Committee will hold its second hearing seeking to establish House Republicans’ case for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on grounds of failing to secure the border and halt migration. House Republicans are working on a fast timetable, though it is not clear whether they have enough votes to impeach within their own caucus. A letter from 26 former senior DHS officials, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, opposed the impeachment proceedings.

Late Wednesday, Texas authorities announced their first arrests of migrants, on state trespassing charges, in a large park along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass where police and national guardsmen have barred Border Patrol from operating for the past seven days.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had given Texas until the end of the day Wednesday to rescind its order and allow Border Patrol to operate in Shelby Park, at which time it would refer the matter to the Department of Justice. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton published a letter on Wednesday rejecting DHS’s demand.

A woman and two children from Mexico drowned in the river near the park last Friday night; Texas’s ban left Border Patrol agents unable to be present to detect or rescue them.

In an unusual move, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider its December ruling ordering Texas to remove a 1,000-foot string of buoys placed down the middle of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. Texas had asked the court for an “en banc” hearing of all 17 of its active judges, a request that gets granted only about 1 percent of the time. That hearing will happen in May; in the meantime, the buoys may remain in the river. Most of the Circuit’s 17 active judges are Republican appointees, though the 3-judge panel that ordered the buoys removed included 2 Democratic appointees.

Very low temperatures are threatening asylum seekers gathered outdoors along the border, especially in southern Arizona and in Matamoros, Mexico across from Brownsville, Texas. As many as 1,000 people await processing in the Tohono O’odham Nation lands along the border in remote desert southwest of Tucson, and others continue to arrive near Sásabe, just west of Nogales.

After a night in crowded shelters in Matamoros, most migrants waiting in an outdoor camp have returned to a precarious tent encampment despite the freezing temperatures. The Sidewalk School, a charity that operates in Matamoros and Reynosa, is appealing for donations to help provide for them.

On the Right

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