Senate Releases Long-Awaited Text of Bipartisan Border Security Bill
The United States Senate published the text of a long-awaited deal to enact border security reforms in exchange for aid to Ukraine on Sunday, marking the end of negotiations that had begun in December.
The 370-page bill — titled the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 — would appropriate $118 billion in total, with $48 billion to aid Ukraine during its war against Russia and nearly $16 billion to aid Israel during its conflict with Hamas until Dec. 31, as well as fund border security reforms. The latter reforms include more funds for the hiring of new immigration judges to expedite the processing of asylum and deportation proceedings as well as law enforcement operations to detain and remove foreign nationals present illegally in the United States.
“The border security bill will put a huge number of new enforcement tools in the hands of a future administration and push the current Administration to finally stop the illegal flow. The bill provides funding to build the wall, increase technology at the border, and add more detention beds, more agents, and more deportation flights,” wrote Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, the chief GOP negotiator of the bill, in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The border security bill ends the abuse of parole on our southwest border that has waived in over a million people. It dramatically changes our ambiguous asylum laws by conducting fast screenings at a higher standard of evidence, limited appeals, and fast deportation.”
A key provision of the bill in Title IV is the creation of an emergency authority to summarily remove foreign nationals who enter the U.S. illegally, without standard removal proceedings under Title 8, if the week-long average of such entrants increases to over 5,000 persons per day. This summary removal requirement expires only once the two-week average number of illegal entries decreases to 3,750 persons per day.
This provision has proved to be controversial among Republicans, who responded to its disclosure ahead of the bill’s release and have argued that it will not meaningfully reduce illegal immigration. The bill imposes caps on the number of days in a calendar year that the emergency authority may be exercised.
“I never believed we should link policy demands to emergency aid for our allies, but Republicans insisted — so Democrats negotiated in good faith over many weeks and now there is a bipartisan deal on border policy legislation,” wrote Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray, who released the bill’s text. “Ukraine’s fate and so much more hangs in the balance — it’s time for Congress to act.”
The bill would appropriate $723 million to hire more U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents, who provide front-line border security and law enforcement, as well as $534.68 million to hire more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents, who are responsible for arresting and removing illegally present foreign nationals. The bill would also invest nearly $4 billion into U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which adjudicates all asylum claims and would support the hiring of 4,338 asylum officers to process these claims.
Asylum officers, furthermore, would be granted new authority to provisionally adjudicate claims for asylum at the border, as opposed to the current practice, where an applicant is released into the country and given a notice to appear later, sometimes years after arriving. USCIS asylum officers would be empowered to conduct interviews at the border to initially determine whether someone is eligible for asylum, according to a new and stricter standard, with those deemed ineligible being placed in removal proceedings.
“Migrants are approaching the border and being processed and released into the country, sometimes with a piece of paper called a ‘notice to appear’ where they may see a judge in five, seven, ten years. No one knows. Our law changes that and ends the practice of catch-and-release,” independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona told CBS Face the Nation on Sunday, ahead of the bill’s release. “So, when people approach the border and say they want to enter our country to seek asylum…we actually do an interview right then and there, to determine whether they meet the standard for asylum.”
“For those who do not meet that standard…they will be swiftly returned to their home country,” Sinema said.
Apart from reforms to combat illegal immigration, the bill contains several measures to reform legal immigration, which has been demanded by both Republican and Democratic senators, alike. The bill would authorize 250,000 new immigrant visas for lawful permanent residency (known more commonly as “green cards”) to relieve long backlogs currently faced by many foreign national applicants living legally in the country.
In a major concession to the children of such persons, known as “Documented Dreamers,” who normally “age out” of their parents’ status after residing in the country for most of their lives, the bill allows them to temporarily remain in the United States if they have resided in the country for eight years before turning 21, pending the grant of permanent residency. The bill would, furthermore, grant immediate authorization to foreign fiancées and spouses of U.S. citizens to work in the country, as well as grant permanent residency to certain Afghan refugees who evacuated Kabul in 2021 and are presently in the country.
Numerous high-ranking politicians shared their opinions on the deal shortly after it was released.
“I have no doubt that the Senate can, once again, rise to the occasion and lead America forward,” wrote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Twitter, now known as X. He added that the bill was a “monumental step towards strengthening America’s national abroad and along our borders.”
“The Senate must carefully consider the opportunity in front of us and prepare to act,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement. He indicated that the bill would “equip future leaders with a system that works and new emergency tools to restore order.”
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Others, however, disagreed with the bill. “This is asinine,” wrote Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah on Twitter, noting that much of the bill’s authority would be “left to the discretionary whims of Secretary Mayorkas — who, I might add, is currently being impeached for failing to actually enforce existing law.”
“This bill is even worse than we expected, and won’t come close to ending the border catastrophe the President has created,” wrote House Speaker Mike Johnson on Twitter after the bill’s release. “If this bill reaches the House, it will be dead on arrival.”
“We’ve reached an agreement on a bipartisan deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades,” wrote President Joe Biden shortly after the bill’s release, indicating that he would sign it into law. “I urge Congress to pass this bill immediately.”
Read the full text of the bill:
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