Senate Republicans who are negotiating an immigration reform bill with Democrats are defending their efforts after conservatives reacted angrily to leaked details for the deal. The lead negotiator, Senator James Lankford, said on Fox News Sunday that his detractors are relying on “internet rumors” to fuel their opposition to the bill.
“This bill focuses on getting us to zero illegal crossings a day,” Lankford said. “There’s no amnesty, it increases the number of border patrol agents, it increases asylum officers, it increases detention beds so we can quickly detain and then deport individuals.”
However, Lankford did not explain how these measures — which mainly impact processing times for illegal aliens stopped by border patrol — would actually require the Biden administration to secure the border. Per the reported details of the deal, border agents would only be required to remove illegal aliens if encounters reached a daily average of 5,000 over a week or 8,500 in a single day. Essentially, crisis-level numbers of illegal crossings would be enshrined into federal legislation as measuring sticks; 5,000 encounters a day equals about 150,000 per month — tens of thousands of illegal encounters above the highest-recorded month under the previous administration.
Meanwhile, the Lankford deal also increases the “pull factors” for illegal immigration by guaranteeing work permits to aliens released from border patrol custody. It makes no changes to Biden’s parole program, which has been used to admit a million immigrants. The only reported element of Lankford’s deal that would meaningfully combat illegal immigration is a measure to tighten asylum laws to make it harder to pass an initial hearing.
Lankford’s deal also reportedly makes major changes to the legal immigration system, such as increasing the number of green cards issued each year and giving green cards to adult children of H-1B visa holders.
The revelation of what Lankford has actually been working on with Democrats behind closed doors landed him in hot water with his state party; the Oklahoma Republican Party approved a resolution over the weekend to censure the senator, stating that he has put “the safety and security of Americans in great danger.”
All of this suggests he will have a tough job selling such a monstrosity to his more conservative colleagues in the House. Speaker Mike Johnson has held firm on the idea that his chamber will accept nothing except HR-2 — a bill containing actual border security measures, like resuming construction of the border wall, instituting mandatory E-Verify and the Flores Settlement. Johnson says a Senate-backed border deal is a nonstarter in the House. Lankford is unlikely to win over much support by accusing his colleagues of balking on a border deal because it’s an “election year,” playing into Democrats’ claims that the GOP is intentionally tanking the deal to make Biden look bad. President Joe Biden and his allies have indeed seized on the GOP infighting, blaming conservatives who want a meaningful border security package as opposed to amnesty-lite for the current mess at the border.
As the legislative sideshow continues, Republicans on the House Committee on Homeland Security released articles of impeachment against DHS secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for failing to carry out the duties of his office. The committee plans to vote on the articles on Tuesday; if passed, an impeachment vote would be brought before the entire House.
On our radar
TAX TROUBLES Charles Littlejohn, a former IRS contractor who leaked the tax records of Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and others to ProPublica, was sentenced to five years in prison Monday.
SUPER BOWL SET The Kansas City Chiefs will face off against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII. The two teams previously played one another in the big game four years ago, with the Chiefs emerging victorious.
DEBATE, DONALD! The Washington Post editorial board argues that Trump owes it to voters to debate his sole remaining challenger for the GOP presidential nomination, Nikki Haley: “If he were really so confident of his intellectual superiority … [he] would relish the chance to debate,” the goading editorial reads.
US prepares response to lethal drone strike
The White House confirmed Monday the US is preparing for a “very consequential” response to the drone attack that killed three American soldiers in northeast Jordan, blaming Iran-backed militias. President Joe Biden said Sunday that the US “shall respond” to the attack that left dozens injured overnight. Still, there was no immediate indication when or how the US will answer the attack.
Senators John Cornyn and Lindsey Graham pressured the Biden administration to “Target Tehran” and “hit Iran now,” respectively. Kirby, however, has said that the US does not “seek a war with Iran. We’re not looking for a wider conflict in the Middle East.” This perspective has been shared by anti-interventionist conservatives like Tucker Carlson and Vivek Ramaswamy.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sparked a wave of backlash when she gave condolences to the three dead service members by referring to them as “three folks who are military folks, who are brave, who are always fighting, who were fighting on behalf of this administration.”
–Juan P. Villasmil
Omar’s Somali speech raises eyebrows
As a freshman congresswoman, Ilhan Omar burst on the national stage after she accused pro-Israel politicians in America of being bought off by the “benjamins, baby,” sparking bipartisan condemnation for remarks widely understood to be antisemitic.
But last week, the representative gave a speech to a Somali group in her first language, a video clip of which circulated over the weekend. A translation of the clip has Omar allegedly telling the audience to “sleep in comfort, knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the US system.”
Her supposed remarks have prompted predictable condemnation. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called her a “terrorist sympathizer.”
A senior House Republican told me that, “It is utterly reprehensible and a clear dereliction of duty when a member of the US Congress shows such overt allegiance to a foreign nation.” Omar’s colleague added that her recent speech is “a clear signal of a potential conflict of interest and a deeply troubling indication of misplaced loyalty.”
For her part, Omar said the clip of her remarks is “not only slanted but completely off, but I wouldn’t expect more from these propagandists.”
But, this is far from the first time Omar has found herself in hot water, and she can’t always rely on Nancy Pelosi coming to her aid by saying that “she has a different experience in the use of words, doesn’t understand that some of them are fraught with meaning.”
One GOP foreign policy staffer said to me that he’s “not sure if it’s stupidity or ignorance, but the end result is horrifying that this is coming from a member of Congress. Like Jewish space lasers-level concerning.”
Biden’s exhausting campaign schedule
President Joe Biden is ramping up his 2024 presidential campaign, and with it scaling back his duties as president. Tomorrow, Biden will fly down to Florida for two campaign receptions, one in Palm Beach and one in Miami. The rest of his schedule this week is shockingly light: there are currently no public events scheduled for the president on Monday, Wednesday or Friday. He will speak at the National Prayer Breakfast early on Thursday morning before retreating back to the White House to laze the rest of the day away.
Biden’s near-empty calendar is a familiar return to form, as the tail end of his 2020 campaign saw him rarely putting in a full forty-hour work week. Except now Biden is the leader of the free world; three American service members were just killed by a drone strike in Jordan, Houthi rebels continue to attack shipping lanes in the Red Sea, Israel is at war with Hamas, Ukraine is at war with Russia and illegal border crossings hit another monthly record high, to name a few pressing issues. Perhaps Biden will explain his blank day planner with a term popularized by his predecessor: “Executive Time.”