Some details of the latest congressional border deal, negotiated by Republican senator James Lankford and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, dropped Saturday. Conservatives didn’t have high hopes for negotiations, but the reported deal is worse than imagined.
The Senate has been tight-lipped about discussions, but Rosemary Jenks, government relations director at the Immigration Accountability Project, says sources familiar with the negotiations have leaked details to her. The current framework of the deal reportedly involves expanding legal immigration and providing greater incentives to illegal immigrants in exchange for slight changes to border policy.
Here are some of the key proposals in the Schumer-Lankford deal:
- Illegal immigrants immediately receive work permits when released from custody
- Green cards increased by 50,000/year
- 5,000 illegal immigrants per day can be released into the US (Nearly 2 million a year or 150,000 a month). DHS can continue catch-and-release until border encounters average above 5,000/day in a seven-day period.
- Restricts parole for illegal crossers — seemingly no changes to parole for those who present at ports of entry
- Green cards for adult children of H-1B visa holders
CBS News has also reported that border talks have expanded in recent days to include Afghan evacuees. In exchange for these policy changes, Republicans would get tighter asylum laws, which means immigrants would have to meet a higher standard to qualify, and expedited deportations of families with children.
House Republicans have threatened both a partial government shutdown and to withhold funding from Ukraine and/or Israel until they get some movement on border security. Hence the Senate GOP sending Lankford in for negotiations.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly told GOP senators in a meeting earlier this week that they ought to vote for the Schumer-Lankford deal because they wouldn’t get anything during a Trump presidency. He also allegedly described it as a “good deal”. It will be a non-starter for many in the House, since it does not meaningfully address border security and seems more focused on left-wing priorities related to faster processing times and more opportunities for legal immigrants. It’d be hard to argue that the proposal would lead to any significant reduction in illegal crossings, since the incentives for those who make it into the US still exist. In fact, handing out work permits to those who are caught and released would arguably make the problem worse. Not to mention that setting the threshold for expedited removal at 5,000 crossings/day or 150,000 a month means codifying crisis levels The record high monthly crossings under the Trump administration was about 130,000 in May of 2019; he signed an emergency declaration and multiple executive orders related to border security, plus made key deals with partners across the border, and had the situation under control in less than a year.
Representatives Chip Roy, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Mary Miller immediately said they would vote “no” on the deal and described it as a betrayal.
House Republicans have introduced their own border security bill, HR-2, that establishes mandatory E-Verify, tightens asylum rules (including barring illegal immigrants from claiming asylum unless they do it at a port of entry), resume construction of the border wall, get rid of the Flores agreement that restricts how long family units can be held in detention, and avoids an expansion of legal immigration. The Senate has refused to vote on it.
The House GOP has also been proceeding with an impeachment of Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for his refusal to follow federal immigration law. Mark Green, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, says Mayorkas has been derelict in his duty and abused his authority in letting millions of illegal immigrants into the US. In December, illegal encounters reached a record high 302,000 in one month. Unless major changes occur, these numbers are likely to get worse. Illegal encounters typically spike in the spring and early summer because immigrants want to take advantage of the milder weather.
It’s not hard to imagine, though, that moderate Republicans in the House might side with Democrats to pass the Schumer-Lankford deal. Republicans only have a slim majority in the House, and with members facing elections this fall, many are eager to avoid being blamed for a government shutdown. The only way the GOP might avoid selling out the American people with this disastrous immigration bill is if they feel the political consequences of voting “yea” are worse than those associated with the alternative.