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Senate Democrats to force second vote on border bill that Republicans blocked | US immigration

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Senate Democrats to force second vote on border bill that Republicans blocked | US immigration


US immigration

Legislation has next to no chance of passing but Democrats hope to show Republicans are not serious about solving border issue

Thu 23 May 2024 07.00 EDT

Senate Democrats on Thursday will force a second vote on a bipartisan border security bill that Republicans blocked earlier this year at Donald Trump’s behest.

The legislation has next to no chance of passing the chamber, but Democrats hope the attempt will strengthen their argument that Republicans are not serious about addressing the situation at the US border with Mexico, an issue that polls show is a top concern among voters – and one of Joe Biden’s biggest political liabilities.

“Our bipartisan border bill represented a real chance – in fact, the best chance in decades – to act on border security, to make a law and not just to make a political point,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said on Wednesday.

Democrats have spent the week driving home the message that the president and his party are trying to solve the issue, but have been thwarted by Republicans following Trump’s lead.

In February, after months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators had unveiled an immigration compromise – legislation Republicans said was necessary to unlock their support for a foreign aid package that included assistance to Ukraine.

The legislation, which would have made major changes to immigration law and received endorsements from the National Border Patrol Council and the US Chamber of Commerce, initially appeared to have the support to pass. But then Trump, wary of handing his opponent a political victory on one of his most motivating issues, called it weak and demanded his allies in the Senate abandon it.

When it came to the floor, the measure failed in a 50-49 vote, far short of the 60 ayes needed to begin debate. All but four Republicans opposed it. They were joined by a group of liberal and Latino Democrats who argued that the approach was too punitive.

Biden trails Trump in national and battleground-state surveys. Voters trust the former president over Biden to tackle the border issue by a wide margin, according to several recent surveys, with immigration often ranking as a top concern.

The White House has implored Republicans to back the bill on a second attempt. Biden on Monday spoke to House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to lobby for its passage.

“You caused this problem,” Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said he told Biden during their call, while urging the president to reinstate Trump era immigration policies. “Why don’t you just allow what the previous administration was doing?” McConnell said he told the president.

Since the bill’s failure in February, Biden has taken a series of executive actions to stem the flow of migration and speed up asylum process, which can take months or even years. But the administration has maintained there are limits to what the president can do unilaterally.

“We are clear-eyed that there is no lasting solution to the challenges we are facing at the border that does not include the US Congress taking up and passing bipartisan reform,” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday.

No Republican has expressed support for the bill this time around. Instead they are accusing Democrats of engaging in political theater.

“This is not trying to accomplish something. This is about messaging now,” senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican who helped negotiate the border deal, earlier this week. “This is trying to poke Republicans rather than try to actually solve a problem.”

In the unlikely event the bill were to reach the House, Johnson has already declared the bill “dead on arrival”.

The measure was designed to clamp down on illegal border crossings, which reached record levels last year, though the overall numbers have dropped in recent months. Among its provisions, the bill proposes provisions that would make it more difficult to seek asylum in the United States, while expanding detention facilities and speeding up the deportation process for those who enter the country unlawfully.

It would also institute a new emergency authority that would effectively close the border if the average number of migrants encountered by immigration officials averaged more than 4,000 people a day at the border over the course of one week. The authority would be triggered automatically if the average surpassed 5,000 per day or if 8,500 try to enter unlawfully in a single day.

Democrats have emphasized the aspects of the bill they say would curtail fentanyl smuggling, which has led to a drug overdose epidemic that is killing tens of thousands of Americans each year. Despite Republican claims, illicit opioids are overwhelmingly smuggled over the border by US citizens, not migrants.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates wrote in a memo released on the eve of the vote: “Congressional Republicans have to choose: will they again decide that politics is more important than stopping fentanyl traffickers and saving the lives of innocent constituents? Joe Biden knows where he stands.”



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