WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans on Monday released a proposal for tougher immigration laws while warning President Joe Biden that there will be no further aid to Ukraine without stricter rules for granting asylum in the United States
The one-sided plan — authored by Republican Senators James Lankford of Oklahoma, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — calls for a variety of changes, including raising the “credible fear” standard for asylum seekers and restricting officials’ ability to provide humanitarian assistance to grant probation and increased penalties for illegal border crossings.
The proposal drew strong criticism from the White House and Democrats. They urged Republicans not to hold Ukraine’s funding hostage to a divisive domestic dispute that has consumed presidents and lawmakers for three decades.
Although the proposal is essentially a negotiating tactic, Lankford said Democrats would still need to support stricter border laws for Republicans to approve aid to Ukraine in the GOP-controlled House and Senate, where they have filibustered. Exercising power to block proposed legislation.
“We will not try to protect other countries and not ours,” Lankford said. “For three years we’ve been saying, ‘When are we going to secure the country?’ When are we doing this?’ And every year it gets worse. … And the volume has become so loud that we say: “Time out; We must be able to protect our own country while working to keep others safe.’”
Graham, an outspoken Ukraine supporter who has worked with Democrats on immigration in the past, said there would be no relief package without including tougher asylum laws. He referred to the sharp increase in asylum applications in the USA
“We will not push through a package that does not control the border,” he said. “America is a destination of choice, not a safe destination. … Something has to give.”
“DACA is not border security”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said it was “really unfortunate that Republicans are conflating the two.”
“But I’m listening to my Republican colleagues,” he said, adding that there are “parts of what they put on the table that we could talk about” but that “there would also have to be some Democratic priorities, like, “well, on the table.”
One of those Democratic priorities is to provide a path to American citizenship for so-called Dreamers — migrants brought to the U.S. unlawfully as children. But many Republicans oppose the idea, and some believe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) should not be included in the funding measure.
“DACA is not border security,” Lankford said. “This is a national security package.”
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., called the GOP immigration proposal “radical” and argued it would “hollow our asylum system and endanger families and children fleeing violence and persecution.”
White House spokesman Angelo Fernández Hernández said in a statement: “We disagree with many of the policies contained in the Senate’s new Republican border proposal.” Additionally, we see nothing in their proposal about creating an earned path to citizenship for dreamers and others. Congress should fund the President’s supplemental request to secure the border now.”
The White House requested funding for Israel and Ukraine in a single package, but House Republicans separated the two.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, chairman of the Judiciary Committee that oversees immigration, said the GOP proposal was “not a good starting point.”
“I’m willing to talk to anyone on both sides of the aisle who wants to move beyond the partisan arguments on this issue,” he said. “Let’s show the world that we can come together to fix our broken system – and let’s not wait.” Critically taking Ukraine hostage in this process.”
“We can’t let Putin win this thing.”
The White House and many Democratic allies have warned that cutting off aid to Ukraine would lead to Russian President Vladimir Putin winning the war and acquiring his neighbor’s sovereign territory.
The Republican-led House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act of 2023, in May with only support from the Republican Party and the White House threatening to veto it.
“A lot of this comes directly from HR 2, which we have concerns about,” said Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., whose state borders Mexico. “But of course this will be a negotiation and I firmly believe that we have to support Ukraine. We can’t let Putin win this thing; That would be a colossal mistake.”
Lankford argued that Republican senators eliminated the provisions in HR 2 that the White House most opposed.
Centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-Wa., appeared receptive to the new GOP proposal, telling reporters: “We have to do something.”
“I think the fundamentals of what you’re seeing, the ultimate thing, will be very reasonable,” said Manchin, who hails from a ruby-red state and is still debating whether to run for re-election next year after losing to Lankford had spoken. “And I think it will actually be moderate compared to what many Americans want right now.”
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a conservative hardliner, said aid to Ukraine will fail in the House unless Biden agrees to combine it with tougher border laws that come with “handcuffs that force him to do it.” “To comply with it” are enforceable and cannot be waived.
But Democrats like Murphy fear the new GOP wish list moves the debate further away from resolution, not closer to resolution.
“I just want to make sure we get help for Ukraine. I want to make sure we do something to treat people at the border humanely. I don’t know if those two things can even go together,” Murphy said. “I don’t think the proposal that Republicans are putting on the table today makes things any easier. I think that makes it more difficult.”