President Johnson calls for hardline policies during border visit as aid to Ukraine hangs in the balance

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EAGLE PASS, Texas (AP) — U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson led about 60 fellow Republicans in Congress on a visit Wednesday to the Mexican border to demand hardline immigration policies for backup change. President Joe Biden’s Emergency Wartime Funding Request for Ukraine. He expressed serious doubts about whether he would support a bipartisan compromise.

The journey to Eagle Pass, TexasIt came as the Senate engages in delicate negotiations in hopes of reaching a deal.

With the number of illegal crossings In the United States, surpassing 10,000 on several days last month, the border city has been at the center of Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign. Operation Lone Starits nearly $10 billion initiative that has tested the authority of the federal government on immigration and raised the political fight on the issue.

An agreement in the lengthy talks in Washington could unlock Senate Republican support for Biden’s $110 billion package for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. security priorities. In meetings, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, R-Ariz., James Lankford, R-Okla., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are trying to make progress before Congress returns to Washington next week.

But Johnson, R-Louisiana, told The Associated Press during the border tour that he held firmly to the policies of a bill passed by House Republicans in May without a single Democratic vote. He would build more border wall and impose new restrictions on asylum seekers. Democrats called the legislation “cruel” and “anti-immigrant” and Biden promised a veto.

“If it looks like HR 2, we’ll talk about it,” Johnson said of any border legislation coming out of the Senate.

At a news conference, Johnson also suggested he could use the government’s looming funding deadline as further leverage.

“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, he better start by defending America’s national security,” he said. Johnson added: “First we want to close and secure the border.”

Biden has expressed a willingness to make political concessions as the historic number of migrants crossing the border is a growing challenge to his 2024 re-election campaign. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and House staff Blanca have participated in the Senate negotiations.

“We have to do something,” Biden told reporters Tuesday night. He said Congress should approve his national security proposal because it also includes money to manage the influx of immigrants. “They should give me the money I need to protect the border,” he said.

Administration officials have criticized Johnson’s trip as a political ploy that will do little to solve the problem.

“When you are at the border, you will see the magnitude of the problem and you will see why we have said for about three decades that your broken immigration system desperately needs legislative reform,” Mayorkas told CNN on Wednesday. “So we are focused on solutions and we hope that they come back to Washington and focus on solutions as well.”

House Republicans argue that Mayorkas’ management of the border has constituted a dereliction of duty and are moving forward with a rare impeachment process against a Cabinet member, with a first committee hearing on the matter scheduled. for next week. Mayorkas told MSNBC that he would cooperate with an investigation.

During parts of December, border crossings at Eagle Pass, as well as elsewhere, overwhelmed the resources of Customs and Border Protection officials. Authorities closed freight rail crossings at Eagle Pass and El Paso for five days and closed border crossings at the City of Lukeville, Arizona.

Authorities say the number of migrants decreased during the December holidays as part of a seasonal pattern. He Border crossings reopen.and arrests for illegal crossings from Mexico fell to about 2,500 on Monday, from more than 10,000 on several days in December, authorities said.

“We need to fix the border. There is virtually unanimous agreement between Democrats and Republicans on this,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. And he added: “Everyone will have to give something to achieve this.”

Republicans are pressuring Biden and Democrats to accept strict border measures and see the high number of migrants arriving at the border as a political weakness for the president.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Kentucky on Tuesday that in a conversation with Biden, 81, he made the case: “You can’t do anything about how old you are, you can’t do nothing about inflation. but this is something that can be measured and for which credit could be claimed.”

McConnell also said he was approaching the talks with “optimism that somehow we’re going to get this all worked out and we’re doing our best.”

Senate negotiators have focused on stricter asylum protocols to Migrants arriving at the border between the United States and Mexicoreinforcing border surveillance with more personnel and high-tech systems, and surveillance measures that would come into force if the number of daily crossings exceeded a certain threshold.

Murphy, the top Democratic negotiator, said Tuesday that he hoped that “at some point, Republicans can accept the offer that we’ve all been working on together in the room for a long time.”

He expressed concern that the longer the talks drag on, the longer Ukraine’s defenses will be suspended without secure US support in the war with Russia.

The Pentagon announced in late December what officials say. could be the final military aid package for Ukraine if Congress does not approve Biden’s funding request. The weapons, valued at up to $250 million, include aerial munitions and other missiles, artillery, anti-armor systems, ammunition, demolition and medical equipment and spare parts.

Russia has unleashed a flurry of missile and drone attacks about Ukraine in the new year.

“The consequence of the Republicans’ decision to tie Ukraine funding to the border is that Ukrainians are already in a moment of true crisis,” Murphy said.


Groves reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Seung Min Kim and Rebecca Santana in Washington, Elliot Spagat in San Diego and Bruce Schreiner in Frankfort, Kentucky, contributed to this report.

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