Washington, DC — The ongoing supplemental funding negotiations on Capitol Hill remain stuck over Republicans’ demands for injecting a range of permanent asylum and immigration policy changes as a prerequisite to continue the fight for democracy in Ukraine. As negotiations and coverage continue, below are four key points that observers, including Democrats, should be sure to understand.
- If your goal is helping Ukrainians, this is the wrong strategy: It is nonsensical to help Ukrainians fight Russia on the one hand while ending legal pathways for Ukrainian refugees fleeing Putin’s aggression on the other.
- If your goal is a more orderly and secure border, this is the wrong strategy: GOP demands will make chaos worse, enforcement more difficult and go way beyond the border.
- If your goal is to strengthen Democrats and weaken Republicans politically, this is the wrong strategy: delivering on GOP demands won’t win you more voters, nor will it slow the attacks – and could cost you the support of voters you already have.
Below, we explore each of the above points following a statement from Vanessa Cárdenas, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
“Republicans’ cynical politics and extreme demands should not dictate the confines of the immigration debate. We need to have a real immigration debate centered on solutions. That means via regular order and with a full range of policies on the table – not to trade off our support for Ukrainian allies for a lopsided set of policies that Republicans are solely defining and trying to shoehorn into the supplemental.
The flawed premise that the Republicans’ demands for a grab bag of cruel and permanent policy changes are about ‘border security’ gets it backward. The right way to promote an orderly border and reduce migratory pressures is to modernize our immigration system by resourcing our asylum processing system, expanding legal pathways, and providing work permits and permanent protections to immigrants in the interior. A supermajority of the Senate already supports Ukraine aid. Republicans need to stop blocking such aid and start answering why they are seeking to harm the fight against Vladimir Putin.”
Point 1: If your goal is helping Ukrainians, this is the wrong strategy: It is nonsensical to help Ukrainians fight Russia on the one hand while ending legal pathways for Ukrainian refugees fleeing Putin’s aggression on the other.
It remains underappreciated that some are pushing to trade off support for aiding our allies in Ukraine by eliminating one of the ways that tens of thousands of our allies in Ukraine have found safety. Slashing legal pathways and parole programs would eviscerate an important pathway that thousands of Ukrainians have used to safely flee Putin’s aggression.
As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post assessed: Republican efforts to “sharply restrict the president’s authority to parole migrants into the United States on humanitarian grounds … could end President Biden’s Uniting for Ukraine parole program, which permits refugees to come to the United States for two-year stays, notes Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council. According to an administration official, that program has admitted more than 156,000 Ukrainians. ‘It’s the only clear path that Ukrainians fleeing the war have to come to the U.S.,’ Reichlin-Melnick says.”
Point 2: If your goal is a more orderly and secure border, this is the wrong strategy: GOP demands will make chaos worse and enforcement more difficult.
Republicans and too many in the media continue to characterize the GOP as pushing for “border security” measures in the supplemental funding negotiations. It just isn’t accurate. What Republicans are demanding and some Democrats seem willing to concede on, would make enforcement more difficult at the border, add to, not reduce, chaos and have consequences for every community across the United States, including American communities nowhere near the border.
Among the proposals being reported on include GOP efforts to
- Reduce legal avenues for entering the U.S. at ports of entry by eliminating parole authority, guaranteeing that more people desperate to migrate would avoid or circumvent ports of entry. Programs to help Ukrainians, Afghans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Haitians, Nicaraguans – and others – would end, along with appointments made at ports of entry via the CBP One phone app (see excellent Cato Institute op-ed on the subject here).
- Require incarceration of all individuals, including children and families, until asylum cases are resolved, by eliminating parole authority for border guards, which would create an immediate humanitarian, jail capacity and funding nightmare.
- Expanded deportation proceedings – known as “expedited removal” – to the entire country. As a practical matter, this would mean anyone across the United States could be targeted for deportation if they are suspected of being in the country for less than two years. Furthermore, these truncated deportation proceedings would provide limited access to due process and legal representation. [This is among the items Stephen Miller tried to enact during Trump’s presidency but was thwarted by litigation.]
As Jason Houser, former Chief of Staff at ICE said on a press call last week regarding proposed permanent and deterrence-focused immigration policy changes: “In the history of the Department of Homeland Security and larger flows of migrants at the southern border, there has never been data that has shown that these sort of measures or reforms would stop or deter … a migrant’s calculus to come to the southern border.”
Point 3: If your goal is to strengthen Democrats and weaken Republicans politically, this is the wrong strategy: delivering on GOP demands won’t win you more voters, nor will it slow the anti-immigrant attacks and could cost you the support of voters you already have.
Democrats and President Biden are facing wicked cross-currents on immigration politics and their number one goal remains funding the critical war against Putin and Russia. But giving in to Republicans’ extreme policy demands in the misguided notion it will alter the political trajectory or aid Biden and Democrats’ political standing gets it all wrong.
- Defending Putin in a war against democracy is a bad look for Republicans. The longer aid is delayed, in order to demand their extreme immigration agenda, the worse it looks for Republicans.
- No matter the concessions to Republicans, the GOP will continue to run hard on ugly and false anti-immigrant politics in 2024. The goalposts on immigration are on roller skates when it comes to Republicans so even if you get past Senate Republicans by conceding everything, House Republicans are likely to ask for more, especially because many do not want to fund Ukraine aid under any circumstances.
- Biden could be dampening enthusiasm among voters inclined to support him. The majority of voters – particularly Latinos, women, younger voters, African American voters, and progressives – prefer solutions and a balanced approach to immigration over Trump’s scorched-earth nativism and MAGA extremism. Recall, Republicans’ reliance on ugly nativism hasn’t been the electoral silver bullet they have long promised (see our 2022 political report here for details) and regardless of how much the White House concedes on immigration, the goal of an orderly border won’t be furthered (see above)
The political way forward shouldn’t involve delivering on key elements of the Donald Trump and Stephen Miller wishlist. Democrats should avoid the trap that is being set for them. Delivering a win for the anti-immigrant agenda won’t stop the political attacks, but it does undermine the sharp contrast and clear lack of workable solutions from the other side of the aisle that moves American voters to support Democrats.
Resources and Background
- Read FWD.us memo, “Awful Policy and Terrible Politics: 6 Extreme Demands in the Senate Immigration Talks”
- Read American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) policy briefs on multiple policy issues at stake: “What Would Be the Impact of Capping Asylum?” and “Asylum Credible Fear Standard” and “Barriers to Immigrant Visas Driving Migrants to the Southern Border”