February 24, 2024

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White House and Senate negotiators are racing to reach a border deal, with aid to Ukraine at stake.

White House and Senate negotiators are racing to reach a border deal, with aid to Ukraine at stake.

Ena Varenzia/Reuters

A Ukrainian rides in a T-64 tank near the town of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on December 13, 2023.



CNN

Democrats and Republicans will not be able to reach an agreement on changes to US southern border policy this year, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said on Sunday. Weeks of negotiations On linking stricter immigration restrictions to supplementary funding for Ukraine and Israel.

“Republicans feel like we’re getting cornered,” Graham said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re not close to an agreement. It’s going to go into next year.”

Democrats and Republicans are urgently trying to reach agreement on border policy changes before senators leave town for the holidays — with meetings continuing on the Hill on Sunday — but many congressional aides doubt a deal can be reached as significant differences remain.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to approve his additional national security request, which includes billions of dollars in funding for Ukraine, Israel and border security, among other priorities. He warned that the money was needed for Ukraine, which the United States had pledged to support in defense against Russia and, more broadly, for American national security.

But the package introduced in October remains stalled.

For weeks, negotiators on both sides wrestled over linking tougher immigration restrictions to additional funding for Ukraine and Israel. Republicans insist change must be made at the southern US border, where the influx of migrants has drained federal resources, in order to move forward with funding for Ukraine.

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“This is a disaster, and it is a result of Biden’s policies on open borders,” Senator John Cornyn of Texas said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We will use this opportunity to change that.”

In a sign of the challenges negotiators face as they try to reach an immigration deal that could pass the Senate this week, 15 GOP senators, including Graham, are calling for a special meeting in January to discuss the negotiations. In a letter sent Sunday to Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the senators criticized the “rushed and secretive” talks.

If the Senate leaves town for the holidays without reaching a deal, the White House will have to figure it out Difficult choices about supplying allies like Ukraine At the expense of American military preparedness. The supplemental request also includes $14 billion for border security.

Over the weekend, senior White House officials, including White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, called on Republican and Democratic lawmakers to try to reach consensus on border policy changes, two sources familiar with the discussions told CNN. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill on Sunday to meet with Senate negotiators.

But potential changes to tighten asylum, among other tougher immigration measures, are difficult to accept with Democrats, who worry that the White House is adopting Trump-era immigration policies.

Zients on Saturday held a phone call with some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, one source said, which raised concern about the direction of the border talks. Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill on Sunday to meet with Senate negotiators.

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The other source said major sticking points remain as negotiators try to reach an agreement. They include measures that result in the expulsion of migrants at the US-Mexico border – effectively preventing migrants from seeking asylum at the border; Limiting the use of parole, which allows immigrants to temporarily live in the United States on a case-by-case basis; The source said that mandatory imprisonment.

Other proposals include raising the criterion of credible fear for asylum seekers and expanding the use of expedited removal procedures.

Republicans have also shown renewed interest in the Safe Third Country Agreement, which would prevent migrants from seeking asylum in the United States if they pass through other countries before arriving at the U.S. border, the source said.

For Biden, the politics right now are complicated. While losing support from the Democratic base could cost him in next November’s election, the perception of doing nothing on border security could have broader and lasting effects as well.

Migrant concerns at the US-Mexico border have reached record levels during Biden’s presidency. While Biden officials have stressed that the arrests reflect record immigration in the Western Hemisphere, the issue is sure to be a drag in the 2024 presidential election as Republicans point the finger at the president’s immigration policies.

Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked for decades over immigration. But the contours of today’s border agreement are much narrower than in previous negotiations when additional funding for border security was often coupled with legalization for immigrants who were already living in the United States illegally.

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Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said on Sunday that he was “very encouraged” about the status of the talks.

I’ve been communicating with negotiators, colleagues, and friends on both the Democratic and Republican sides, as well as the White House as well, and I’m very encouraged. “I am very optimistic that they are moving in a very positive way.”

“I know the House has been opposed, but I can assure you that the House is not going to get anything done unless they start working together in a bipartisan way on this very troubling and challenging legislation,” Manchin said.

This story and headline have been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.