The New York Times’ SHOCK! HORROR! revelation that Donald J. Trump might actually be serious about (illegal) immigration got all the attention Saturday: Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans, November 11, 2023.
But new House Speaker Mike Johnson also unveiled his strategy to avert the government shutdown looming on November 17: a two-step plan that effectively kicks negotiations over what should be in a budget until next year. Johnson says this gives Republicans more time to wring concessions from the Democrats; some conservatives see it as more business as usual [House Speaker Mike Johnson proposes 2-step stopgap funding bill to avert government shutdown, Associated Press, November 11, 2023]. But whatever happens, immigration will remain at the heart of budget negotiations. President Biden and leading Democrats signal they’re open to changes on immigration, but they demand Amnesty as their price. Meanwhile, all Republican leaders and even squishes say they want strong changes to deter illegal immigration. Here is how the immigration debate on Capitol Hill is shaping up.
Biden and the Democrats have never offered anything to Republicans on immigration. Their Amnesty proposals didn’t even make the usual lying promises about border security or immigration enforcement. Dems simply assume Republicans will sign up for selling out their country without even the pretense of preventing future illegal immigration. But the Biden Rush and its severe unpopularity with the public has convinced the regime that it might have to concede and do something, however little, if he’s to get more money for Ukraine in a supplemental aid package.
Thus has Biden mulled altering the credible fear standard for migrants, which allows illegals slated for deportation to stay in the U.S. As long as they can prove that they fear some form of retribution if they are sent back home, they can stop their deportation. Biden might tighten the standard to make fewer illegals for deportation protection [Biden weighs border deal—altering asylum law for Ukraine aid, by Myah Ward and Ursula Perano, Politico, November 2, 2023].
Some Democrat legislators, such as Senators Gary Peters of Michigan and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, are open to changes to asylum law. But many Democrats are not. They worry that the party would have to tie this minor change to some form of Amnesty to please the Hispanic Lobby, and that even this tiny concession could spark an ugly battle within the Democratic Party.
As well, it won’t likely appease Republicans, especially if it comes with an Amnesty. Republicans want the return of Remain in Mexico, which keeps asylum seekers out of America while their application is determined, and other restrictions on the abuse of our asylum system. “The second thing we’d like to see is changing the asylum claims standard, where you don’t have 21,000 people claiming asylum every three days. I think those are the two big issues, and there are a lot of other smaller issues that I think are going to come up in negotiations,” Ohio Senator J.D. Vance told the Politico writers.
Republican senators divulged their immigration demands last week, and they are more extensive, obviously, than what Biden plans to offer. Released by immigration squishes Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Oklahoma’s James Lankford), along with border hawk Tom Cotton of Texas, the plan outlines a sensible policy to control the border. It requires building a border wall, reinstitutes Remain in Mexico, toughens the credible fear standard, make illegals ineligible for asylum if they passed through another country on their way to America, and curbs the regime’s power to grant parole to illegals [Senate Republicans Unveil Solutions For Southern Border Crisis, Senate Judiciary Committee, November 6, 2023].
The senators would hold Ukraine funding hostage to get what they want. Shockingly, even neocon Graham emphatically supports this negotiation technique. “I will not vote for one dime for any country, including Israel, until we secure our own border,” Graham told Fox News on November 8.
I will not vote for one dime for any country, including Israel, until we secure our own border. pic.twitter.com/ZCfmU0L4Km— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 9, 2023
The entire Swamp wants to give money to Ukraine and Israel. Tying that funding to border security pressures Biden and the Democrats to concede. But Republicans just need to hold the line.
The proposal is already taking flak from the Left and Right. The White House and Democrats say it’s a “total non-starter.” A Biden spokesman criticized the measure for not including any form of Amnesty. Biden has offered just $14 billion for border operations, but, of course, it doesn’t institute any serious changes to stop the invasion. It just funds the already existing border efforts [White House, Senate Dems reject GOP border security proposals, by Adam Shaw, Fox News, November 8, 2023].
Some House conservatives are also not thrilled by the Senate proposal. Led by Texas Rep. Chip Roy, nearly every Texas Republican signed a letter asking the Senate to pass a border bill that the House passed in May. It contains many of the security measures in the Senate plan. But it’s not tied to Ukraine funding—it’s just about securing the border. Roy asserts that the Senate proposal waters down provisions in the straight border bill. Supporters of the Senate plan say the differences are virtually nil [Texas House GOP lawmakers put squeeze on Senate Republicans’ border security plan, by Elizabeth Elkind, Fox News, November 9, 2023].
It’s commendable that the House conservatives want the strongest border measure to pass, but their plan can’t make it through the Senate. Democrats, of course, universally oppose it. Biden announced a veto in May. Republicans have no way to pressure Democrats into accepting this bill outside of budget legislation. Republicans could negotiate with their Senate colleagues to strengthen their new proposal, but passage requires a link to the funding Democrats desperately want.
House Speaker Mike Johnson favors that tactic. “We have to take care of our own border first,” he said last week. He added that it makes sense to tie Ukraine funding to the border:
[W]hen you couple Ukraine and the border, that makes sense to people because they say If we’re going to protect Ukraine’s border, and we have to do what if necessary there, we don’t want Vladimir Putin to prevail, we can’t afford that, the free world can’t afford that, but we have to take care of our own border first.
Speaker Johnson pushes to couple Ukraine aid and border, by Danielle Wallace, Fox News, November 5, 2023
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agrees. The embodiment of the Establishment told Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that border measures must be included in any budget bill. “I did make it clear to both of them that we have to have a credible solution to the wide-open border in order to get a bill ... across the Senate floor. I hope they understood the message,” McConnell told reporters [US Senate’s top Republican: Biden’s funding request will not pass without ‘border solution’, Reuters, November 7, 2023].
The GOP is united. It wants something done about the border. It’s just a question of what they can get. Democrats have made it clear that they want Amnesty tied to any security measures. That’s not going to happen. House conservatives have torpedoed bills for lesser offenses, and Johnson will turn into a pariah among the lawmakers who made him Speaker if he agreed to that deal.
Unlike in the pre-Trump era, the vast majority of the GOP caucus stands opposed to Amnesty. They know their voters oppose it and they reflect that sentiment.
Indeed, Republicans have the advantage. The public overwhelmingly disapproves of Biden’s invasion and wants more border security [Fox poll: Americans disapprove of Biden’s border policies, by Eric Bazail-Eimil, Politico, October 11, 2023]. With the right messaging, Republicans can browbeat Democrats into conceding.
It’s up to party leaders to stick to this strategy. That requires Johnson and McConnell to keep their respective caucuses united in its demand for serious improvements in immigration policy. It’s a very good sign the likes of Lindsey Graham and James Lankford are pushing for strong measures and vowing to not vote for any Ukraine funding without it. That’s the Establishment saying they want serious changes.
Republicans may have to risk a government shutdown to get this accomplished, but they would win the public’s sympathy. Everyone with eyes can see the invasion at the border. The Democrats refusing modest demands will expose their extremism to America. Biden will be at fault for the shutdown and the border crisis. It’s not a situation Biden wants to be in.
Even better, if the Democrats don’t accept this reality, they will improve the chances for a Trump victory in 2024—and the mass deportations he promises.
Washington Watcher II [Email him] is an anonymous DC insider.