WASHINGTON — Senate and White House negotiators are moving closer to a deal on new immigration policies that would unlock aid to foreign allies, but significant gaps remain.
Limits on the Biden administration’s use of humanitarian parole to allow some pre-petition migrants to legally live and work temporarily in the United States are the main problem, according to three people involved in the debate, as well as Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C. ., was informed about the negotiations.
Republicans want to limit President Joe Biden’s use of the waiver, arguing that the administration is abusing a tool meant for humanitarian aid. Agreeing to the new restrictions would be a significant concession for Democrats.
The Biden administration used the humanitarian waiver to grant fast-track legal entry to the United States to Afghans fleeing the Taliban and Ukrainians fleeing the Russian occupation. Most recently, they began to release the humanitarian condition 30,000 migrants every month As a legal pathway for migrants from countries with a U.S.-based sponsor from Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua.
Humanitarian parole has been a key part of the Biden administration’s “carrot and stick” approach to migration, which seeks to make it harder for migrants to seek asylum at the border and make it easier for them to apply for entry from their home countries. But Republicans blame the policy for sending mixed messages.
Negotiations are key to getting new foreign aid through Congress. House Republicans demanded new restrictions on immigration before agreeing to support new aid to Ukraine in the war against Russia, a top priority for the Biden administration.
Another provision being debated in the ongoing Senate negotiations would detain migrants until their asylum claims are processed, while Democrats push back on a GOP proposal that would detain all undocumented immigrants. Without additional resources, Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t have enough space to hold migrants who aren’t considered a security risk, and therefore lets most of them into the country.
Some middle ground has been reached on the idea of expanding ICE detention facilities to accommodate more, if not all, of the migrants, three sources familiar with the discussions said. Currently, the vast majority of migrants are allowed into the country to fulfill asylum claims after initial screening by Customs and Border Protection to ensure they do not pose a threat to national security or public safety.
After an hour-long meeting Monday morning, the top three members of the talks — Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., James Lankford, R-Okla. and Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz. — expressed optimism that the scope of issues between the two sides had “narrowed,” but said there was no agreement yet.
The group had hoped to present a framework to lawmakers when it returned to Washington on Tuesday after a long holiday break, but Lankford told reporters late Monday that the text of the agreement would not be released this week. The GOP’s top negotiator has kept individual members informed of progress, according to a source familiar with the conversations. Lankford met with GOP leadership on Monday and is expected to brief House and Senate Republicans separately on Wednesday.
At the request of Sen. Ron Johnson, Senate Republicans will hold a special conference briefing Wednesday afternoon to discuss the border crisis more broadly, the source said.
After meeting with Lankford on Monday, Senate Majority Whip John Thune, RS.D., was skeptical that a deal would be finalized soon.
“There are some big issues that are finally being discussed now. And solving them will not be easy. I don’t think you can speed it up. I think it should be done properly,” he said.
A GOP push to expand expedited deportations of migrants to include border cities is no longer on the table after significant pushback from Democrats, two sources told NBC News.
Negotiators have already agreed to several key policy changes that would make it harder for migrants to seek asylum at the southern border. And Biden is playing a bigger role in the White House than at the start of the talks and is likely to agree to any deal reached in the Senate, two additional sources said.
Speaking Monday from the border in Eagle Pass, Texas, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he was “privileged” to participate in the talks between Senate Republicans and Democrats.
If the talks lead to reforms to the immigration system, Mayorkas said, “I’m sure it will have a dramatic effect on the number of encounters we have at the border.”
The last time Congress agreed to significant immigration reform was in 1986, and despite numerous bipartisan attempts to enact new policies over the years, it has failed ever since.
“We’re going to get a lot of hits for those on the field and a lot of people are going to be cheering and cheering in the stands,” Lankford told reporters on Monday. competitive election year. “But the task remains to be done and the problem to be solved.”
Asked why parole is so difficult to deal with, Lankford quipped, “I don’t know, ask Chris. [Murphy].”