Rejected Senate Border Bill Should Serve as Starting Point for Negotiations

The Border security and Ukraine and Israel aid bill that was drafted by Sens. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), and Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) failed to advance in its current form on a vote of 49-50 after a large majority of Republican Senators voted against it. Only four Republican Senators voted in favor of advancing the bill.

A detailed summary of the bill can be found here, and the full bill text can be read here.

While the bill is far from perfect and no bill will ever be perfect, it can be seen as a positive development that Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked in a bipartisan manner in an attempt to advance solutions to alleviate the chaos at the border. Bipartisan negotiations and drafted legislation on advancing border solutions and immigration reforms are better than nothing at all.

If lawmakers are serious about solving the border crisis, they should treat the bill as a starting point for what Democrats are willing to support and continue negotiations in an effort to draft a passable solution. Perhaps there are some provisions in the bill that both sides can agree on. Rather than going back to square one, lawmakers should take the time to whittle down provisions that they won’t support and add provisions that they will.

There are several provisions in the bill that make sense and should be able to garner bipartisan support.

For example, sensible measures include:

  • $18 billion increased funding for DHS
  • Hiring of additional asylum officers to speed up the entry and removal of qualifying and non-qualifying asylum seekers
  • Hiring of additional immigration judges to adjudicate the entry and removal of migrants faster
  • A more restrictive standard of qualification for asylum seekers who enter between ports of entry
  • Legislation to allow Afghans who worked with the US military to adjust to permanent legal status in the US
  • The continued use of parole for sponsored migrants and increases in work visas, which help to deter illegal immigration and abate workforce shortages

One provision that has been rebuked by Republicans is the creation of an emergency authority to immediately remove migrants if DHS encounters more than a daily average of 5000 migrants over a seven-day period. This number includes migrants presenting themselves at and between ports of entry. While the concept of this policy may make sense, Republicans say that the number of 5000 is too high. Perhaps there is a lower number that both sides can agree on, or a lower number could be applied to only to migrants who are entering illegally.  

Perhaps Democrats would be willing to support more funding for DHS and stronger border security measures if they are combined with a needed solution for DACA recipients and Dreamers to earn permanent legal status. Another bill that should be negotiated and voted on is Maria Elvira Salazar’s (R-Florida) Bipartisan Dignity Act, which includes strong comprehensive border security measures and needed immigration reforms to deal with the unauthorized immigrant population currently in the U.S.

When it comes to improving border security and the U.S. immigration system, passing something would certainly be better than passing nothing and continuing the status quo. Rather than playing political football and blaming the other side for lack of action on the border crisis, Republicans and Democrats should work together on solutions that achieve the bipartisan support needed to pass both chambers of Congress.


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