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GOP Pairs Border Security, Uk 11/27 06:29

   As Congress returns to session this week, lawmakers will be trying to forge 
an agreement on sending a new round of wartime assistance to Ukraine.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- As Congress returns to session this week, lawmakers will 
be trying to forge an agreement on sending a new round of wartime assistance to 
Ukraine. But to succeed, they will have to find agreement on an issue that has 
confounded them for decades.

   Republicans in both chambers of Congress have made clear that they will not 
support additional aid for Ukraine unless it is paired with border security 
measures to help manage the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Their 
demand has injected one of the most contentious issues in American politics 
into a foreign policy debate that was already difficult.

   Time is short for a deal.

   A small, bipartisan group in the Senate is taking the lead and working to 
find a narrow compromise that can overcome a likely filibuster by winning 60 
votes. But even if they can reach a modest agreement, there is no guarantee it 
would pass the House, where Republicans are insisting on wholesale changes to 
U.S. border and immigration policies.

   Republicans hope that Democrats will feel political pressure to accept some 
of their border proposals after illegal crossings topped a daily average of 
more than 8,000 earlier this fall. President Joe Biden, who is running for 
reelection next year, has faced pressure even from fellow Democrats over the 
migrant flow.

   No matter what, finding compromise will be exceedingly difficult. As they 
left for Thanksgiving break, Senate negotiators said they were still far apart.

   A look at some of the issues under discussion and why they have proved so 
difficult to resolve:

   Asylum and humanitarian parole

   Changing the asylum system for migrants is a top priority for Republicans. 
They want to make it more difficult for asylum-seekers to prove in initial 
interviews that they have a credible fear of political, religious or racial 
persecution in their home country before advancing toward asylum in the United 

   Republicans in the House have passed legislation that would detain families 
at the border, require migrants to make the asylum claim at an official port of 
entry and either detain them or require them to remain outside the U.S. while 
their case is processed.

   U.S. and international law give migrants the right to seek safety from 
persecution, but the number of people applying for asylum in the U.S. has 
reached historic highs. Critics say many people take advantage of the system to 
live and work in the U.S. while they wait for their asylum claims to be 
processed in court.

   Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who is part of the Senate 
negotiations, said in an Arizona radio interview that one of lawmakers' goals 
is to ensure that "those who are here seeking asylum have an actual claim to 

   Compromise is far from certain. Many Democrats are wary of making it harder 
to flee persecution, and the details of each policy shift are contentious.

   Hardline conservatives in the House, already unlikely to support further 
Ukraine aid, have also signaled they won't accept policy changes that deviate 
much from a bill passed in May that would have remade the U.S. immigration 
system. Their stance means at least some support from House Democrats will be 
needed to pass any agreement --- no easy task.

   Some progressives have already said they will oppose any Republican-led 
changes to immigration policy.

   "The cruel, inhumane, and unworkable solutions offered by Republicans will 
only create more disorder and confusion at the border," said Democratic Rep. 
Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

   Infrastructure and enforcement

   Lawmakers may find it easier to reach consensus on other areas of border 
policy, particularly when it comes to border staffing and enforcement.

   Negotiators have looked at steps that could be taken to reinforce existing 
infrastructure at the border, including hiring and boosting pay for border 
patrol officers and improving technology. One proposal advanced by a bipartisan 
group of senators would call for hiring of more border patrol agents, raising 
their pay and ensuring they receive overtime.

   Biden has shown a willingness to accept tougher enforcement measures, 
recently resuming deportation of migrants to Venezuela and waiving federal laws 
to allow for the construction of border wall that began under then-President 
Donald Trump. The White House also wants to install new imaging technology at 
ports of entry that would allow authorities to quickly scan vehicles for 
illegal imports, including fentanyl.

   Republicans say that is not enough. They want more robust improvements, 
including more expansive construction of a border wall.

   What Biden is asking for

   Biden's emergency request to Congress included aid for Ukraine, Israel and 
other U.S. allies, along with $14 billion to bolster the immigration system and 
border security. Money would go toward hiring more border patrol agents, 
immigration judges and asylum officers. It's part of Biden's strategy of trying 
to simultaneously turn away from Trump's hard-line policies but adapt to the 
realities of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border.

   Still, polls indicate widespread frustration with Biden's handling of 
immigration and the border, creating a political vulnerability as he seeks 
reelection. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Senate 
Appropriations Committee this month that the administration has been faced with 
a "global phenomenon" of displaced people migrating in numbers that have not 
been seen since World War II.

   "It is unanimous that our broken immigration system is in dire need of 
reform," Mayorkas said.

   Democrats have other immigration priorities, such as expanding legal 
immigration pathways or work authorizations for migrants already in the U.S. 
Democrats have also warned about the danger of delaying aid to Ukraine as it 
enters another winter of war against Russia.

   Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said 
it's a mistake to create a situation where "we have to do significant 
immigration reform in the next few weeks or we won't send money to assist the 
people in Ukraine or other causes important to our national security."

   Republicans have so far been adamant about the need to address Ukraine and 
the border at the same time.

   Rep. Mike Turner, a strong supporter of aid to Ukraine and chairman of the 
House Intelligence Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that he 
thought passing Biden's package would be "very difficult" to accomplish by 
year's end. "The impediment currently is the White House policy on the on the 
southern border," said Turner, R-Ohio.

   What's likely not on the table

   Lawmakers seem unlikely to address one of the nation's long-standing 
immigration issues: granting some form of permanent legal status to thousands 
of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Republicans 
have made clear that will not be addressed in this package, which they want to 
be more narrowly focused on border security measures.

   As Congress struggled to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul, 
President Barack Obama launched the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals 
program in 2012 to shield those immigrants from deportation and allow them to 
work legally in the country. But it has been caught up in the courts ever 
since, and Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination 
in 2024, tried to end it when he was in the White House.

   Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, one of the Senate negotiators, 
would not say early last week whether his side had proposed DACA provisions as 
part of the talks. But he said any deal "has to respect both Republican and 
Democratic priorities."

   "The more Republicans want, the more Democrats are going to want," Murphy 

   Republicans argue that Ukraine aid could be a tough sell to some of their 
voters, and the border policy is the compromise.

   Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican who has been involved in the talks, 
said before the Thanksgiving holiday that the negotiations were not "very close 
yet, because Democrats have not yet accepted that the negotiations are not 
border security for Democratic immigration priorities. It's border security for 
Ukraine aid."

   So far, leaders in both parties have encouraged the talks. But as senators 
restart their work and face pressure to approve funding by the end of the year, 
some are warning that a narrow deal is likely the best that they can do.

   "I don't think it's realistic to solve anywhere close to the whole problem 
in the next two weeks," Murphy said.

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