January 24, 2024

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Senators negotiating a border and migration deal now say that the chamber is unlikely to act this week on legislation that might fund the Biden administration’s request for aid to Ukraine and Israel, border spending, and other priorities, while meeting some Republican demands for new limits on asylum and perhaps other legal migration pathways. Negotiators had voiced mild optimism at the beginning of the week that they would reach agreement on migration measures and begin moving a bill forward.

There will be no bill this week, said chief Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), but it is still possible that the negotiators might start sharing agreed-upon legislative text.

A major sticking point continues to be a Republican demand for new limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant migrants temporary humanitarian parole, which the Biden administration has employed about 1 million times to reduce disorder at the border for lack of other legal pathways. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a frequent participant in the negotiations, continues to insist on strong curbs on parole authority, but the Democrats, who have a 51-49 Senate majority, have resisted that.

Whatever is agreed must still go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority—at the increasingly vocal urging of former president Trump—is likely to demand even more limits on asylum and migration in exchange for Ukraine aid.

Some Texas Republicans are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to defy or ignore the Supreme Court’s January 22 finding that allows the federal Border Patrol to cut through razor-sharp concertina wire that the state’s security forces have laid along many miles of the Rio Grande.

“This opinion is unconscionable and Texas should ignore it on behalf of the [Border Patrol] agents who will be put in a worse position by the opinion and the Biden administration’s policies,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) posted on Twitter. (Roy chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.)

Biden administration officials have not said that they plan to remove Texas’s wire at the border, but agents now have the right to cut or move it in order to access migrants or people in distress along the riverbank. (Texas had filed suit in federal court last October to prohibit federal agents’ wire-cutting.)

Should Gov. Abbott use the Texas National Guard to defy the Court’s ruling or to continue blocking Border Patrol access to parts of the border, Democrats like Rep. Joaquín Castro (Texas) say that President Biden should place the Texas state military force under federal control.

Immigration is now U.S. voters’ number-one concern, edging out inflation by 35 to 32 percent, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.

Employees of the U.S. consulate in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, have been placed under curfew all week, as a security precaution following the arrest of “a high-level member of a criminal organization” near Monterrey, in nearby Nuevo León.

Organized crime in Tamaulipas preys heavily on migrants, David Agren wrote at National Catholic Reporter. “Everyone arrives kidnapped at the migrant shelter. People released from captivity arrive at the parish, at the Reynosa migrant shelter, too,” said longtime shelter manager Fr. Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros.

Republican senators contentiously raised border issues several times at an Armed Services Committee nomination hearing for Melissa Dalton, the Biden administration’s choice for Air Force secretary. Dalton has been serving as the assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs. Among much Republican criticism of the Biden administration’s border policy, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) asked Dalton, “Did you ever tell Secretary Mayorkas he was doing a crappy job?” (She had not.)

A January 23 CBP release details the death of a woman from Mexico on November 18 after she fell from the border wall in Clint, Texas, near El Paso. Three women had been “tied together” by their smugglers “about one foot apart as they climbed the barrier. When one woman panicked [upon seeing Border Patrol approaching], all three of them fell from the barrier.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

At Bloomberg Government, Ellen Gilmer analyzed the impact that House Republican efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, alleging failure to secure the border, have on morale at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “Homeland security professionals have concerns about impeachment’s long-term impacts on the department. The hearings and headlines further politicize the agency, undermine recruitment, and drive away prospective leaders, said the 20-year DHS career employee.”

At Capital & Main, Kate Morrissey reported on the dire situation of asylum seekers who are released onto U.S. streets after spending time in ICE detention facilities. “ICE, the agency responsible for long-term immigration detention, generally drops off people being released from its custody in San Diego sometime between 7 and 11 p.m. at a trolley station by the San Ysidro Port of Entry.”

“If there is one thing that Republicans have long understood keenly it is that fear drives voters to the polls. It’s why they’re not interested in solving the immigration puzzle,” wrote columnist Marcela García at the Boston Globe.

Because so many migrants now come from places other than Mexico and northern Central America, Amb. Mark Green of the Woodrow Wilson Center wrote, “Some of the policy tools we’ve been using in an attempt to control migration are likely to prove inadequate—such as the Partnership for Prosperity/Remain in Mexico policy.”

On the Right

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