Johnson heads to border, increasing pressure on Biden for immigration deal

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WASHINGTON – President Mike Johnson is kicking off the new year by taking more than 60 House Republicans to the U.S.-Mexico border on Wednesday in an attempt to ramp up pressure on the president. Joe Biden and Democrats agree to strict new immigration policies to choke off the flow of immigrants entering the country.

During a visit to Eagle Pass, Texas, Johnson is expected to attack Biden over the increase in migrant crossings and demand that he crack down on deporting people trying to enter the country illegally and resume construction of a border wall. . The visit comes as Senate Republicans and Democrats are struggling to reach an agreement on border policy changes that the GOP has demanded as the price for supporting emergency spending legislation that would expedite more than $50 billion in military assistance to Ukraine.

Talks have focused on making it harder for immigrants to seek asylum in the United States, deporting or detaining more of those who cross the border and keeping more of them out of the country while they wait for a decision on whether they will be allowed. get into. Biden and Democrats in Congress, recognizing the political liability they face if they do not address the border, have shown openness to some changes, but not enough to satisfy Republicans. And in the House, Republicans are pushing for even tougher measures that Democrats are unlikely to adopt.

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“This situation requires significant policy changes and House Republicans will continue to advocate for real solutions that truly secure our border,” Johnson said Tuesday in a social media post.

Republicans in both the House and Senate have insisted that sweeping immigration changes must be part of any bill to help Ukraine fight a Russian invasion, and GOP senators last month blocked a bill. $110.5 billion national security spending bill that would replenish Ukraine’s war chest. Their demands led Biden administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, to join nearly daily bipartisan talks on Capitol Hill last month to find an elusive compromise on immigration policies, a reflection of the political pressure that Democrats face to impose order in the country. edge.

Senators resumed those negotiations in person Tuesday afternoon after holding them virtually over the past week with participants spread across the country over the holidays.

Biden administration officials declined Tuesday to discuss details of the talks but said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are private, that they were moving in the right direction.

Late last month, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the GOP’s lead representative in the talks, said negotiators had made “significant progress.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, said in a joint statement with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the majority leader, that they were equally “committed to addressing needs at the southern border and helping “Allies and partners face serious threats in Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.”

But for decades members of Congress have failed to agree on immigration policy, one of the thorniest and most politically tense issues they have faced. And Johnson has repeatedly signaled that House Republicans will only accept a deal that mirrors his own hardline bill, meaning any bipartisan deal reached in the Senate could still fail in the other chamber.

“Democrats across the country are beginning to recognize the reality: there must be transformative change to secure the border and end the crisis caused by President Biden’s destructive policies,” Johnson wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter, last month. He sent a letter to Biden condemning Schumer for dissolving the Senate during the year without bringing up a vote in his chamber on a House-passed bill reinstating Trump-era border policies.

On Tuesday, a Biden administration official said Johnson and House Republicans were playing politics instead of working to implement meaningful changes.

Part of Johnson’s strategy reflects the pressure he is receiving from the right. Republican Party hardliners openly oppose the Biden administration’s efforts to arm Ukraine. And Republicans have turned a draconian approach to border security, including an overhaul of the country’s asylum laws and a return to detention policies that forced migrants to wait in Mexico before presenting their case to a judge, a piece central to his campaign message for 2024.

On Tuesday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, one of the loudest voices on the far right, dismissed Johnson’s border visit as a weak gesture. Instead, he said, Republicans should refuse to fund the federal government until the administration cracks down on cross-border migration or Biden signs the House-passed border surveillance bill into law.

“It is time to act urgently,” Roy wrote in a letter to colleagues, adding that he would “refuse to fund (or empower) the United States government, or any foreign government it is supporting, unless and until it complies obligations”. constitutional obligation to defend our borders from invasion.”

The threat is potentially potent, as Congress faces back-to-back deadlines to fund the federal government on January 19 and February 2. Senate leaders have been eyeing the two deadlines as possible opportunities for lawmakers to vote on a Ukraine. – border deal, should negotiators manage to reach an agreement, even though Republicans and Democrats have not yet agreed on the size of the next spending bill.

But significant gaps remain between the two parties that would make it difficult for negotiators to finalize a deal before Congress returns to Washington next week. Although the two sides have agreed in principle to make it harder for immigrants to seek asylum, increase detentions and expand the president’s ability to quickly deport those who cross the border illegally, they remain at odds over how and when those powers should be used. – and how to turn those authorities into law.

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