WASHINGTON — Some small signs of agreement are emerging in bipartisan border security talks, including new progress on plans to track and speedily deport more migrants who cross illegally, according to a U.S. official familiar with the Biden administration’s views and a Republican senator’s briefing on the talks.
Sen. Tom Tillis, who participated in bipartisan discussions but was not part of the main negotiating team, confirmed to NBC News that expanding migrant tracking and expedited removal is “one of the open areas of discussion. “
The idea being discussed is an expansion of an existing program to track migrant families, known as Family Expedited Removal Management, or FERM, which puts family heads on ankle bracelets, imposes curfews on all family members and follows migrants to court hearings. If they are determined to be ineligible for asylum, they are given priority for expedited deportation under the program.
The US official said the Biden administration favors the idea and has already begun expanding FERM to more locations.
FERM provides an “alternative to detention” instead of keeping families in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the official said, and could be expanded to monitor other migrants outside of family groups. However, the expansion would require more funding for ICE officers to monitor and oversee deportations, he said.
The White House declined to comment.
The plan could help clear a roadblock in negotiations over the mandatory detention of all migrants awaiting asylum decisions at the request of Republicans, which Democrats oppose. Immigration advocates said it would undo then-candidate Joe Biden’s signature campaign promise to end family and long-term detention. Other Democrats said mandatory incarceration is logistically impossible when prisons are far overcapacity.
Another sign of progress is that more people are now being informed about the details of the negotiations. On Tuesday, Senate Democrats, one of three key negotiators, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and D.N.Y. They held several hours of debate led by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Republicans also held several meetings with the GOP’s top negotiator, James Lankford of Oklahoma, including a special conference call on Wednesday, where senators hoped a deal could be reached, but the two sides continued to diverge over the issues. they dropped
Still, Murphy said negotiators have settled on several changes that would seriously reform U.S. immigration policy. However, without agreement on everything, agreement may still fall apart.
“I am not saying that I am optimistic. I can just see the finish line and once we get there, we have to sell it,” Murphy told reporters Thursday. “So we decided to read it to our colleagues this week. But none of them will commit until they see the final details.”
Further complicating the negotiations is funding for Israel and Ukraine, which Republicans are demanding for border security.
The biggest issue plaguing the weeks-long talks is humanitarian parole, the executive branch the Biden administration uses to allow people from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and other countries to apply and come to the United States. enter abroad legally.
Democrats have not accepted the idea of retroactively withdrawing humanitarian parole from this population. Tillis said he would like to see a cap on the number of immigrants who can enter humanitarian parole going forward, which could only be passed with the approval of Congress.
“What we’re saying is, if you’re serious about using it only for situations that arise in Ukraine or Venezuela or something, let’s put a cap on it. Anything over the limit is subject to an affirmative vote by Congress,” he said, noting that it was an option Republicans were advocating in the debate.
Democrats strongly disagree with Republicans’ position, arguing that the administration’s use of humanitarian parole has prevented asylum-seeking migrants from making the treacherous journey to reach the southwest border.
“No other tool at the president’s disposal has been more effective in reducing illegal crossings than parole. Limiting this ability will encourage more people to move between ports of entry, exacerbating the very problem Republicans claim they want to solve,” Murphy said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.
“I am not saying that we should not have a conversation about the reform of this practice. I’m at the table. However, to completely deny the president the opportunity to use parole means to make the situation on the southwest border even more unmanageable,” he added.