What’s in the US Senate’s $118 billion deal to reduce the migrant backlog at the southern border?


Senators in Washington, D.C., presented a carefully negotiated US$118 billion compromise that combines tens of billions of dollars in wartime aid to Ukraine with new border laws aimed at reducing the historic number of people who show up at the US border with Mexico. request asylum.

The bill faced immediate opposition from many Republicans in both chambers, and House leaders have said it may not even receive a vote, a move that could backfire on voters in the House. during an election year. But bipartisan negotiators are pushing to pass the deal as part of a last-ditch effort to approve funds for Ukraine’s defense against Russia, emphasizing that Congress has the best chance in years to deliver changes to US immigration law.

The bill would also send military aid to Israel, funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific region and humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing Gaza.

The package also drew strong opposition from Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, and his most ardent supporters.

“Why would I help Joe Biden improve his dismal 33% (approval rating) when he can fix the border and secure it on his own?” » Republican House member Troy Nehls told a reporter last week.

The plan contains $60 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14 billion to Israel. Additionally, $10 billion would contribute to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, Israel, Gaza and elsewhere.

Without Ukraine’s help, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin “could bring down Ukraine and even Eastern Europe.”

Dozens of people are seen in a long queue in an outdoor setting.
Migrants wait to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol after crossing the Rio Grande and entering the United States from Mexico on October 19, 2023. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that “America’s sovereignty is being tested here at home, and our credibility is being tested by emboldened adversaries at worldwide”.

Republicans wanted border security measures attached to any bill proposing more aid to Ukraine. Here’s a look at some of the proposed border changes:

A stricter asylum procedure

The plan would also send $20 billion to immigration enforcement, providing money to hire thousands more agents to evaluate asylum applications, add hundreds more agents to Border Patrol and help stop the flow of fentanyl.

The bill would reform the asylum system with stricter standards and faster enforcement.

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Asylum provides protection to people fleeing persecution due to their race, religion, political affiliation, or membership in a discriminated group. It’s part of international law and helps the United States protect human rights, but the system has been overwhelmed in recent years by historic numbers of people seeking asylum at the border with Mexico.

According to this proposal, migrants would have to demonstrate during initial checks that they have a reasonable possibility of obtaining asylum. Migrants would also not be able to apply for asylum if they have a criminal history, if they are resettled in another country or if they could have found safety if they had resettled in their country of origin. ‘origin.

Migrants who cross the border illegally between a port of entry would be arrested and subject to screening within 10 to 15 days.

Migrants who pass the new check will then receive a work permit and have their asylum application decided within 90 days. And migrants seeking asylum between ports of entry would be detained pending initial review of their asylum applications. The proposal calls for a large increase in detention capacity.

Immigration advocates have raised concerns about the asylum changes, saying current standards are deliberately low because migrants often flee desperate conditions, lack legal representation and are still shaken by their journey.

A person in a t-shirt holds up a sign outside that says,
A protester carries a sign outside a rally Saturday in Quemado, Texas. (Eric Gay/Associated Press)

Asylum pause if numbers are unsustainable

Under the proposal, migrants would not be able to seek asylum at all if the number of migrant encounters recorded by Customs and Border Protection reached 4,000 per day over a five-day average across the southern border.

Once the number of encounters reaches 5,000, evictions will automatically take effect. As a reminder, border crossings exceeded 10,000 on certain days in December, which was the highest month ever recorded for illegal crossings.

Several clothes of different colors are displayed on a dirt road.
Clothing from migrants who crossed the border illegally lies on the ground at Shelby Park Saturday in Eagle Pass, Texas. The park was staffed by members of the Texas National Guard, with federal Border Patrol agents kept outside the park to access migrants who needed help. (Sergio Flores/AFP/Getty Images)

The legislation would place limits on how presidential administrations can use parole to allow migrants to enter the country at the border. It would eliminate parole as it is used when migrants cross the border illegally or present themselves at ports of entry, and instead place them in the new asylum assessment system.

The Biden administration would still be able to schedule asylum checks through an app. Additionally, the administration’s power to allow people into the country when fleeing unrest or war would be preserved. This authority, known as humanitarian parole, has been a sticking point in negotiations.

Help for cities facing an influx of migrants

While progressive and Hispanic Democrats have expressed concerns that the package will harm asylum-seeking migrants, the legislation proposes some measures aimed at helping migrants already in the United States and in the cities and states where they are gone. It would send $1.4 billion to local programs such as shelters that have seen large influxes of migrants and speed up the issuance of work permits to migrants awaiting asylum applications. .

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The legislation would also authorize sanctions and anti-money laundering tools against criminal enterprises that traffic fentanyl into the United States. And it would grant 50,000 employment and family immigration visas each year for the next five years.

However, the bill does not contain broad immigration reforms or protections against deportation of illegal immigrants that were the basis of previous Senate deals.

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