tags: Press Releases

Senator Bennet Should Listen to Growing Pushback Against Senate Negotiations That Would Gut Asylum and Restrict Legal Pathways

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11 Senators Sign onto New Joint Statement Highlighting Concerns with Senate Negotiations Involving Senator Bennet, While Must-Read Greg Sargent Column Captures Damaging Political and Policy Implications of Debate

Washington, DC — Key Senators, outside observers, and policy experts are speaking out forcefully against the trajectory and implications of permanent asylum and immigration policy provisions being negotiated in the Senate during the supplemental funding negotiations, including by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO).

A new joint statement from 11 Democratic Senators, excerpted below, highlights concerns about the direction of the ongoing talks between Senator Bennet and fellow Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), James Lankford (R-OK), Chris Murphy (D-CT, Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). 

We encourage Senator Bennet, as well as Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), to read a new column from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post, How Trump is wrecking hopes for a ‘reasonable’ Ukraine deal” (also excerpted below), which captures the political dynamics and damaging implications of what’s supposedly on the table – including efforts to eviscerate the asylum system and restrict legal parole programs that create more safety, orderliness, and border security. Meanwhile, find a recap and recording of a press call held yesterday with immigration policy experts and advocates here.

According to Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

“No Democrat should advance key elements of the Donald Trump and Stephen Miller wishlist. Period. They may not be physically in the room, but Trump and Miller are the driving force behind the efforts to gut legal immigration avenues. Also not in the room are the Senators with the most experience on immigration matters whose constituents – and their families –  will be most directly impacted by new prohibitions being contemplated. We encourage Senator Bennet especially, but Senator Hickenlooper as well, to listen to these voices speaking out forcefully against the direction of these negotiations. Bipartisan negotiating means each side accepts some priorities from the other side, but this is a one-sided set of permanent and damaging policies being proposed, as Republicans have rejected including even popular policies such as legalization for Dreamers. 

Democrats, and Republicans if they were serious, should be pushing for thoughtful changes to improve our asylum system, not gut it. Given their control of the White House and Senate, Democrats need to be fighting for meaningful changes that will actually improve our immigration and asylum system and reject the grab bag of Trumpian policies being negotiated.”

Find key excerpts of the joint statement from 11 Democratic Senators below (the effort was led by Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and signers were Senators Booker (D-NJ), Durbin (D-IL), Hirono (D-HI), Luján (D-NM), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Wyden (D-OR)):

“[W]e are concerned about reports of 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. Using a one-time spending package to enact these unrelated permanent policy changes sets a dangerous precedent and risks assistance to our international partners. Any proposal considering permanent changes to our asylum and immigration system needs to include a clear path to legalization for long-standing undocumented immigrants…”

Read Greg Sargent in the Washington Post, “How Trump is wrecking hopes for a ‘reasonable’ Ukraine deal” with key excerpts below:

“[T]he demands from Tillis and his fellow Republican leading the talks, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, are not reasonable at all — they’re following Donald Trump’s playbook. Under the guise of seeking more “border security,” they’re insisting on provisions that would reduce legal immigration in numerous ways that could even undermine the goal of securing the border.

…As one Senate Democratic source told me, Republicans started acting as though Trump and his immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller were ‘looking over their shoulders.’

…According to the Democratic sources, Republicans are 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 functionally gut those programs entirely — an absurd demand. Under those parole grants, if migrants gain U.S. sponsors and pass background checks, they can live and work here for two years. This provides an orderly alternative to the mode of entry that enrages Republicans, in which migrants breach the border, seek asylum and disappear into the country while awaiting a hearing. Gutting parole could mean more of the latter.

‘Canceling parole would significantly heighten the pressures on the border and the numbers of migrant crossings,’ said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. ‘It’s the opposite of what’s needed to strengthen border security.’

…What’s really bizarre about the impasse is that Republicans should support much of what’s in Biden’s initial request for border security funding. After all, it would also fund expedited asylum processing, which could reduce the window for migrants to exploit the system and prompt faster removals for those who don’t qualify. Aren’t those things Republicans want?

…The bottom line: Senate Republicans are demanding that Democrats add numerous extreme concessions to a package that already gives Republicans many border security measures they ordinarily support, in exchange for Ukraine aid that many already back anyway. Tillis and Lankford can either be “reasonable” in these negotiations, or they can satisfy Trump and Miller. But they can’t do both. Unfortunately, they appear to be privileging the latter.”

Additional Resources and Background:

  • See here for border and asylum policy provisions that Congress can and should address in a supplemental package;
  • Press Release with Audio Recording of Immigration Experts’ Press Call Held Today (LINK)