Bill on Border Security, The United States Senate introduced a $118 billion bipartisan border security package on Sunday, which would also offer aid to Ukraine and Israel, but it was quickly met with opposition in the House.
US Senate Unveils $118bn Bill on Border Security, Aid for Ukraine, Israel
“I urge Congress to come together and swiftly pass this bipartisan agreement,” President Joe Biden said, also complimenting the bill’s migration provisions, which took months of negotiation.
However, House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson called it “dead on arrival” if it made it to his chamber.
“This bill is even worse than we expected, and it will not come close to ending the border catastrophe the president has created,” he said in a message on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Despite Donald Trump’s opposition, Democratic and Republican Senate supporters of the comprehensive US border security and overseas military aid bill pledged to move forward.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans to have a first vote on the bill on Wednesday. If passed, the plan would bring about the most dramatic changes in US immigration and border security in decades.
Some progressive Democrats are outraged that the measure would not give a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented persons who have lived in the United States for many years, including “Dreamer” immigrants brought in as children.
Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema told reporters that the legislation would secure the United States’ southern border, including requiring the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily “shut down” the border to most migrants if there are an average of more than 5,000 crossing attempts per day over seven days.
Republican Senator James Lankford, one of the bill’s negotiators, stated that the border will likely remain closed for at least three weeks while the number of new immigrants drops considerably.
In addition to $20.23 billion for border security, the bill included $60.06 billion to support Ukraine’s war with Russia, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel, $2.44 billion to U.S. Central Command and the conflict in the Red Sea, and $4.83 billion to support U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific facing Chinese aggression, according to Senator Patty Murray, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.
An additional $10 billion would offer humanitarian assistance to populations in conflict zones such as Ukraine, Gaza, and the West Bank, while the law prohibits monies from flowing to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians (UNRWA).
The Biden administration and several countries have suspended financing for the organization following reports that some of its employees were complicit in Hamas’ October 7 strikes in southern Israel.
“The priorities in this bill are too important to ignore and too vital to allow politics to get in the way,” Schumer said in a statement. “The United States and our allies are facing multiple, complex and, in places, coordinated challenges from adversaries who seek to disrupt democracy and expand authoritarian influence around the globe.”
The bill’s core overseas security provisions are broadly consistent with what Biden requested from Congress in October, when he called for more cash for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
That request has been blocked by House Republicans’ desire that it be linked to a change in immigration policy.
With House Republicans divided on how to deal with the massive number of immigrant arrivals and whether to supply Ukraine with additional aid, Johnson said on Saturday that he intends to vote this week on a new bill offering $17.6 billion in military assistance to Israel. That bill does not include any new cash for Ukraine or border security in the United States.
Meanwhile, Lankford stated that he would meet with Johnson in the hopes of increasing House support for the Senate plan.
Schumer stated that the arrangement would increase frontline personnel and asylum officers while also providing “faster and fair” immigration determinations. Lankford told reporters that it would fund up to 50,000 immigrant detention beds, an increase from the existing 34,000.
The bill’s supporters claimed it would halt the contentious “catch-and-release” procedure, which critics say contributes to the large number of illegal immigrants arriving at the southern border.
It would accomplish this by expediting the adjudication of asylum cases rather than swiftly releasing arrested migrants and allowing them to remain in the United States for years while awaiting hearings.
Mitch McConnell, the leading Republican in the Senate, has expressed support for the negotiations, claiming that Republicans would not receive a better deal under a Republican president.
“The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and be prepared to act,” McConnell stated.
In a press conference, Schumer stated that he had never collaborated so closely with long-time Senate colleague McConnell on a bill.
“On many occasions, we thought the negotiations had fallen apart,” Schumer said in a statement.
Right Wing Opposition
Nonetheless, right-wing Republicans are suspicious of the proposed Senate legislation.
“Here’s what the people pushing this ‘deal’ aren’t telling you: It accepts 5,000 illegal immigrants a day and gives automatic work permits to asylum recipients — a magnet for more illegal immigration,” Steve Scalise, the minority leader in the House of Representatives,
Other congressional Republicans have stated that Biden can implement many of the changes they want to immigration policy by executive action, after previously calling for legislative action.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday, immigration is the second most pressing issue for Americans, and it is particularly important to Republicans. The US Border Patrol arrested around 2 million migrants along the border in fiscal year 2023.
Trump, the Republican front-runner to face Biden in the November election, has focused largely on his hostility to immigration. House Republicans are also seeking to impeach Biden’s top border official, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.