The Hill: 10 Senate Democrats voice alarm over border security talks

By Alexander Bolton

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security, is circulating a statement signed by nine other Senate Democrats expressing alarm over the direction of bipartisan border security negotiations that will be key to passing an emergency foreign aid package next month.

Padilla, joined by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other prominent Senate liberals, is pushing back hard on reports that the bipartisan group of negotiators has tentatively agreed to raise the legal standard for asylum claims and is now looking at cracking down on the humane parole of migrants into the United States.

“As negotiations surrounding the supplemental aid package progress, we are concerned about reports of harmful changes to our asylum system that will potentially deny lifesaving humanitarian protection for vulnerable people, including children, and fail to deliver any meaningful improvement to the situation at the border,” Padilla and his Democratic colleagues said in their joint statement.

“Using a one-time spending package to enact these unrelated permanent policy changes sets a dangerous precedent and risks assistance to our international partners,” they warned, referring to the emergency foreign aid package that would provide military assistance to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region as well as humanitarian assistance to Gaza and Ukraine.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) are leading the negotiations for the Democrats. They have met regularly with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the lead Republican negotiator, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).

Tillis said Monday that he would only sign off on a deal that could win the support of at least 25 Senate Republicans.

Republicans have demanded immigration policy reforms be added to the package, which President Biden proposed should include billions of dollars to enhance security along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Padilla and the other Democratic senators said any changes to asylum policy must be paired with other immigration reforms that they would favor, such as creating more lawful pathways for permanent residency and citizenship for migrants.

“We cannot truly secure our border and help American communities without increasing lawful pathways for migration and legalizing long-time undocumented immigrants who put food on our tables, care for our elderly, and form the fabric of our communities,” they said.

Democratic Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) also signed the joint statement.

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