What’s In The Bipartisan Senate Package To Aid Ukraine And Israel, Secure U.S. Border

A group of Senators has recently reached a highly negotiated agreement worth $118 billion, which includes a strategic combination of providing financial support for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and implementing new border laws designed to reduce the alarming number of asylum seekers arriving at the US-Mexico border.

Despite facing immediate opposition from various Republicans in both the House and Senate, with the latter even announcing that there will be no vote on the matter, bipartisan negotiators are working tirelessly to sell this package as a last-ditch effort to secure necessary funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

This deal presents a prime opportunity for Congress to finally make significant changes to the flawed US immigration system, as highlighted by the additional provisions for military aid to Israel, funding for allies in the Asia-Pacific region, and humanitarian assistance for refugees escaping Gaza. While President Joe Biden has played a crucial role in securing this deal by collaborating with leaders from both sides of the aisle in the Senate, its passage through Congress remains a challenging task, if not an impossible one. This sentiment is echoed by many Republican Senators, who have expressed concerns about the border policies not going far enough and have questioned the allocation of additional aid to Ukraine. In fact, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida went as far as to categorize this deal as ‘an easy NO.’

The package has also drawn strong opposition from former President Donald Trump, who is the likely Republican nominee for the upcoming presidential election. It is worth noting that there may also be some opposition from Democratic Senators, as Senator Alex Padilla of California has publicly stated his disapproval of the changes that this deal would bring to the asylum process, stating that it ‘misses the mark.’

Despite these challenges, here is what we know about the package so far: it includes $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel, as well as investments in domestic defense manufacturing, aid for humanitarian efforts, and measures to control the influx of migrants at the US-Mexico border. Additionally, $10 billion will be allocated to humanitarian efforts in other regions, including Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza. Lastly, $20 billion will be set aside for immigration enforcement measures.

The proposed package includes a provision to allocate $20 billion towards strengthening immigration enforcement, which would result in a significant increase in the hiring of officers to handle and assess asylum claims. It would also see a substantial boost in the number of Border Patrol agents and initiatives implemented to combat the illegal import of fentanyl. Of particular note is the proposed changes to the asylum process, which would involve stricter standards and prompter enforcement measures. The purpose of the asylum system is to provide protection to individuals who are fleeing persecution based on factors such as race, religion, political affiliation, or membership in a marginalized group.

While this is an essential part of international law and serves to safeguard human rights, the system has become overwhelmed in recent years due to a surge in the number of people seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Under the new plan, individuals would be required to demonstrate a strong likelihood of being granted asylum during initial screenings. Additionally, those with a criminal history, who have already been resettled in another country, or who could have found safety by resettling in their home country would not be eligible to make an asylum claim.

Furthermore, if migrants cross the border illegally between ports of entry, they would be detained and undergo a screening within a maximum of 15 days. If they pass the screening, they would receive a work permit, be placed in a supervision program, and have their asylum case decided within three months. For those who seek asylum in between ports of entry, detention would be mandatory while they await the initial screening for their claim. To accommodate this, there would be a significant expansion in detention facilities. The proposal also involves a substantial expansion of an existing program under the Biden administration, which monitors families who arrive at the border and awaits screening for their asylum claim.

This program was developed as an alternative to detention for families and its expansion would provide another avenue to handle the increasing numbers of families seeking asylum.

Immigration advocates are voicing their concerns and opposition to the proposed changes to the asylum policy, citing various reasons for their opposition. One of the main concerns is that the current standard for granting asylum is intentionally set low, as most migrants seeking asylum are in extremely dire situations, lack proper legal representation, and are still recovering from the traumatic experiences of their journeys. The proposed changes also aim to restrict the ability of migrants to apply for asylum at all, if the number of illegal border crossings reaches a specific threshold. This echoes a policy implemented by former President Donald Trump, known as Title 42, which justified the swift expulsion of migrants in the name of curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Under the new proposal, if Customs and Border Protection encounters 4,000 migrants per day over a five-day average, the government would have the authority to immediately expel them. Once the number of encounters reaches 5,000, automatic expulsions would take place. This is especially concerning as there were days in December where border encounters topped 10,000 – the highest on record for illegal crossings. However, the proposal does still allow migrants to apply for asylum at designated ports of entry. Additionally, if the number of illegal crossings decreases by 75%, the administration would have a two-week window to terminate the use of this emergency power.

Supporters of Title 42 argue that it was a necessary tool in expelling migrants quickly, freeing up resources for patrolling and protecting the border. However, critics question the effectiveness of this policy, as it is difficult to determine accurate numbers when migrants repeatedly attempt to cross the border after being expelled under Title 42. Critics also point out that this policy has enabled criminal organizations to exploit and prey on the buildup of migrants in the southern border region.

The proposal does make allowances for migrants who express concerns about being persecuted if they are returned to Mexico, allowing them to still apply for asylum in that specific scenario. Furthermore, the proposed legislation aims to set limits on the President’s immigration authority by placing restrictions on the use of emergency powers in situations like this. Overall, there are many concerns and debates around the proposed changes to the asylum policy and the potential consequences it may have on migrants and border security.

The proposed legislation would greatly impact the way presidential administrations handle immigration at the U.S. border. Specifically, it would place strict limitations on the use of ‘parole’ to allow migrants into the country. This would mean eliminating the current practice of granting parole to those who have crossed the border illegally or presented themselves at ports of entry, and instead implementing a new system for evaluating asylum claims. While the Biden administration would still have the authority to schedule screenings of asylum claims through an app, the use of humanitarian parole – which allows individuals fleeing unrest or war to enter the country – would be preserved but subject to negotiation.

Of concern for progressive and Hispanic Democrats is the potential harm to migrants seeking asylum under this new legislation. However, the bill does include measures aimed at assisting migrants already in the U.S. and the cities and states where they have settled. This includes providing $1.4 billion to local programs, such as shelters, that have seen an influx of migrants, as well as expediting work permits for those awaiting an asylum claim.

In addition to these provisions, the legislation addresses other pressing issues related to immigration, such as the trafficking of fentanyl into the U.S. It would authorize sanctions and anti-money laundering tools to combat this criminal activity. Furthermore, the bill would also create a yearly visa allocation of 50,000 for employment and family-based immigration over the next five years.

However, it should be noted that the legislation does not address broader immigration reforms or deportation protections for individuals living in the U.S. without authorization – key elements of previous Senate deals. Still, the bill does offer a pathway to residency for Afghans who worked alongside U.S. soldiers during America’s longest war. This is in response to the nearly 76,000 Afghans who have arrived in the U.S. on military planes after the withdrawal of American troops in August 2021. All in all, the proposed legislation seeks to make significant changes to the way presidential administrations handle immigration, while also addressing specific issues and providing support to those directly affected by the immigration process.

The newly proposed provision aims to create a pathway for qualified Afghans to not only apply for, but also obtain, U.S. citizenship. This would not only give deserving individuals the opportunity to become permanent members of American society, but also provide them with a sense of security and stability in the aftermath of their evacuation. To ensure the safety of both the applicants and the country, thorough vetting and screening procedures will be put in place before granting lawful permanent resident status to eligible evacuees. This will not only maintain the integrity of the U.S. immigration process, but also prioritize the safety and well-being of all individuals involved. Ultimately, this provision seeks to recognize and honor the sacrifices made by these brave Afghans and grant them the opportunity to build a brighter future for themselves and their families in the United States.

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