February 1, 2024

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Congress will adjourn for the weekend later today. And after next week, the Democratic-majority Senate is scheduled to take a two-week Presidents’ Day recess. (The Republican-majority House of Representatives will take a one-week recess after February 16.)

Meanwhile, there is no bill language yet from a small group of senators negotiating a deal that would restrict asylum access, to satisfy Republican demands to pass a package of Ukraine aid and other spending. The agreement is teetering as pathways to becoming law close off. “It’s not dead yet, but the writing’s on the wall,” a Republican senator told Punchbowl News’s Andrew Desiderio.

As discussed in a new WOLA commentary, media reports indicate that the deal would create a new Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers from the United States, with little to no chance to seek protection, when a daily average of migrant encounters exceeds a specific number (reportedly 5,000).

Lead Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said that the group was “whisper-close” to releasing language, but that they were not ready to share it Wednesday. (Lankford is taking a lot of criticism from pro-Trump elements of his party for negotiating with Democrats.)

Another negotiator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), offered some new details about what the agreement contains as she sought to debunk rumors.

One of the main misconceptions is that the new expulsion authority would be triggered after 5,000 migrants per day were allowed into the U.S. interior: it would instead apply whenever Border Patrol apprehended that many people under any circumstances, even if most ended up deported or detained.

In the House, Republicans opposed to the deal are digging in. They include Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), who criticized elements believed to be in the Senate agreement, along with a broader attack on the Biden administration’s border and migration policies, in his first floor speech as speaker.

The rightmost contingent of the Senate’s Republicans also attacked the deal at what The Hill called “a contentious lunch meeting in the Capitol Wednesday.” Reporter Alexander Bolton concluded, “the prospect of mustering 25 Senate GOP votes for the bill is dimming, raising the possibility that Republicans will abandon the effort altogether.”

Politico reported that progressive Democrats, too, are beginning to line up against the Senate border deal.

The House passed a bill, with 56 Democratic votes, that would mandate life sentences on migrant smugglers involved in high-speed pursuits near the border if anyone is killed during the chase.

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector tweeted that agents there apprehended 7,889 migrants in the week ending January 30. That is the fourth weekly increase she has reported in a row, up from 3,598 during the week ending January 9.

A San Diego Border Patrol agent is under investigation after engaging in lewd behavior in a YouTube video while on duty near Jacumba Springs, California, near where hundreds of asylum seekers wait outdoors each day to turn themselves in to agents.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The disorder and neglect of the U.S. asylum and immigration-court systems are a big reason why migration is increasing at the U.S.-Mexico border, reads an analysis from Miriam Jordan at the New York Times.

The New York Times’s Karoun Demerjian and The Atlantic’s David Graham poked holes in House Republicans’ case for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

In an interview at Slate, the American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick explains why there is no such thing as a presidential ability to “shut down” the border.

At the Washington Post, data journalist Philip Bump unpacked the new Republican talking point of referring to adult male migrants as “military-age males.”

At The Atlantic, Fernanda Santos positively reviewed an upcoming book about migration from New Yorker staff writer Jonathan Blitzer.

On the Right

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