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Border bill to address immigration crisis seems far off

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President Joe Biden recently signed a $95 billion foreign aid bill and, in doing so, may have ended any hopes for a bill from Congress this year to address the southern border crisis.

Some Senate Republicans pushed to have strict border protections added to that foreign aid bill, which included about $61 billion for Ukraine in its war against Russia’s invasion, about $26 billion for Israel in its war against the terrorist group, Hamas, as well as about $8 billion meant to bolster the Indo-Pacific region against China, in part bolstering Taiwan.

Senate leadership unveiled a foreign aid bill with some border protections earlier this year, but that bill was immediately attacked by many Republicans.

Critics said the bill did not do enough to close the border and unnecessarily gave broad powers to the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow migrants into the U.S.

Both Biden and House Republicans have expressed a desire to pass another border bill, but whether they can agree on terms and get the sign off of a less enthusiastic Senate seems a tall order.

“Sadly, Senate leadership has shown it has zero interest in holding Biden accountable and securing the border,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., told The Center Square. “That became clear when Mitch McConnell abandoned the terrible immigration bill he negotiated with Democrats that did nothing to secure the border, then immediately partnered with Democrats to pass $60 billion for Ukraine aid without border security measures forcing Biden to enforce the law.”

When that bill was under scrutiny, former President Donald Trump blasted it, calling it a gift to Democrats. He and other Republicans essentially argued it would give Democrats credit for addressing the border without doing anything substantive to actually fix the border crisis.

Democrats argued that Trump did not want Democrats to get a legislative win during the election year on the border, an issue he wants to focus on these next few months.

Republicans have also repeatedly argued that Biden has legal authority to deal with much of the border crisis, but does not have the political will. Biden has enacted a series of administrative changes on the handling of deportations, asylum claims, and more to make it easier for illegal immigrants to come into the U.S. and stay.

“It is infuriating that after President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas dismantled President Trump’s successful border security policies, they are now purposely ignoring the laws,” Scott said. “We have to stop illegal immigration and keep Americans safe. President Biden is lawless. His actions to open the border are intentional because he wants to see an invasion of illegal aliens into the United States. Floridians want a secure border TODAY.”

Republicans in the U.S. House also passed a border legislation that has been largely ignored. H.R. 2, the “Secure the Border Act of 2023.”

The bill in question would have forced DHS to continue building the Trump-era border wall and to expedite construction by waiving certain legal requirements. The bill would also give retention bonuses and better equipment to border patrol agents and would require that U.S. Customs and Border Protection have drones operating at the southern border at all times.

From the bill summary:

This section prohibits DHS from (1) processing the entry of non-U.S. nationals (aliens under federal law) arriving in between ports of entry; (2) providing funds to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that facilitate or encourage unlawful activity; or (3) providing funds to NGOs that provide certain services, such as lodging or immigration legal services, to inadmissible non-U.S. nationals who enter the United States.

The bill, among other things, would also increase CBP’s data collection and data releases, block DHS from enacting COVID-19 policies without Congressional approval, limit the number of alleged asylum seekers who can come into the U.S., and would beef up penalties for employers who hire an unauthorized illegal immigrant.

“The fight to secure our border has been one of my highest priorities since Biden took office and intentionally created this crisis,” Rep Bob Good, R-Va., told the Center Square. “Last year, the House successfully passed H.R. 2 which would force the Biden Administration to halt the invasion at our southern border. Unfortunately, the Democrat-run Senate refuses to take it up. Republicans should attach H.R. 2 to every must-pass bill going to the Senate.”

For now, though, passing any bill before November seems unlikely.

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