Ukraine aid is among the most pressing (of many) issues Congress is grappling with in the remaining weeks of 2023, and Senate Republicans are digging in on their efforts to poison it with anti-immigration demands. Democrats see the influence of Donald Trump over the increasingly harsh and racist policies on which Republicans are conditioning their votes.
After news stories about Trump’s plans for mass deportation, incarceration, and persecution of immigrants emerged, one Senate Democrat tells The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, “Republicans started acting as though Trump and his immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller were ‘looking over their shoulders.’” Now GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina insists that without “language on parole,” Republicans won’t budge.
That means ending the policy of allowing blanket parole for 30,000 asylum-seekers coming from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela every month. With American sponsors, those immigrants can live and work in the U.S. for two years while they await their asylum hearings. And Democrats told Sargent that the Republicans want to end that process, “demanding that presidential parole authority be scaled back so it can only be applied on an individual case-by-case basis, not to large groups from a single nationality.”
That would not enhance border security, the GOP’s supposed goal. “Canceling parole would significantly heighten the pressures on the border and the numbers of migrant crossings,” Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, told Sargent. “It’s the opposite of what’s needed to strengthen border security.”
Not only that, Republicans are also demanding that illegal border crossings be reduced by half—an absurdity. Biden and Democrats can’t control the flow of people trying to come into the country just by fiat in this bill. Tillis and Sen. James Lankford, on behalf of their colleagues, also insist that asylum requirements be made tougher, refusing to concede any policy changes Democrats offer in exchange, like a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as Dreamers.
None of this sits well with Democrats who have been working on immigration for years but have been largely sidelined in these negotiations. Eleven of them, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democratic leader, signed on to a statement led by California’s Alex Padilla rejecting “harmful changes to our asylum system that will potentially deny lifesaving humanitarian protection for vulnerable people, including children, and fail to deliver any meaningful improvement to the situation at the border.”
Senate Republicans say that these hard-line, racist policy changes must be made to pass Ukraine aid in the House. That, again, is discounting Democratic votes and those of the 100 or so House Republicans who continue to support Ukraine. On Wednesday, House Speaker Mike Johnson is meeting with Senate Republicans as well as having a one-on-one with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, ostensibly to talk through all this. Johnson made a strong statement in support of Ukraine on Monday, echoing much of what McConnell has been saying for months.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wants President Joe Biden’s supplemental request that included Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan funding—as well as $14 billion for border security—to come to the floor next week. That’s very much up in the air, thanks to the hardening Trump line in the Senate GOP.
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