Few moments are less promising to reach a bipartisan deal than the months before a presidential election. And few issues present greater obstacles than limiting illegal immigration. Even the word “illegal” is contested. Progressives say it is too harsh. Conservatives say it is simply truthful.
It is no surprise, then, that the compromise “border-security bill” gasped its final breath this week. The Senate bill, negotiated by a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent, met a hostile reception as soon as the text was released. House Speaker Mike Johnson declared it “dead on arrival.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer reluctantly brought it up for a procedural vote, where it went down in flames.
Why such stiff opposition? Because the bill contains not one but two divisive issues. The first is that the “immigration bill” also funds Ukraine’s war with Russia and, to a lesser extent, Israel’s war with Hamas and Hezbollah. Funding for Israel has broad support, but funding for Ukraine does not. There is considerable opposition among Republicans and some progressive Democrats to giving Ukraine another $60 billion. (Faced with the defeat of the combined bill, Schumer is considering a separate package to fund Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, with no mention of immigration.)
The second problem goes to the heart of the immigration bill. It includes provisions that would allow some 5,000 to 8,000 migrants to cross illegally into the US each day before tougher restrictions kick in.
Almost every Republican, including many moderates, are appalled by those numbers. They remember when President Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security called 1,000 illegal crossings per day a crisis. If that was a crisis, they say, what do you call five- to eight-times that many?
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Author: Ruth King
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