What’s in the new $118 billion Senate immigration and foreign aid bill

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    According to ABC News

    On Sunday night, a team of senators from both parties shared the details of a new $118 billion bill aimed at providing significant foreign aid alongside the biggest changes to the nation’s immigration policies in years.

    This agreement came about after four months of hard work and discussions led by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (Independent from Arizona), James Lankford (Republican from Oklahoma), and Chris Murphy (Democrat from Connecticut).

    However, their ambitious plan seems to have a slim chance of being passed into law, as some conservatives quickly criticized it for not being tough enough on border security.

    Responding to these criticisms, Senator Sinema issued a statement on Sunday, standing firm against the doubts.

    “We’re facing a real crisis at our border, and our bipartisan bill is designed to address it head-on,” she said. “Now, it’s time for senators to decide: either pass our bill and tackle the crisis, or stick with the status quo, do nothing, and continue to let politics get in the way while our immigration system falls apart and our communities bear the brunt. My choice is clear – I’m for securing our border, ensuring the safety of Arizona’s border towns, fixing our flawed immigration system, and finally putting an end to this border crisis.”

    Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has expressed strong support for the bill, stating that it is “tough, fair, and represents significant steps towards solving the problems we face due to decades of Congress not taking action.”

    To proceed with the bill, the Senate needs to get 60 votes in a key vote happening on Wednesday.

    Right now, it’s uncertain if enough Republican senators will back the bill to beat a filibuster.

    House Speaker Mike Johnson harshly criticized the bill, saying it was “even worse than we thought,” and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise stated it wouldn’t be considered in the House. However, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell praised Senator Lankford for his efforts “to start national security legislation with clear and immediate solutions for the crisis at our southern border.”

    Former President Donald Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, called the proposal “ridiculous” and a “complex trap for Republicans to get blamed for border issues just before the very crucial upcoming election. He warned, “Don’t fall for it!!!”

    What’s in the immigration and foreign aid Bill ?

    The bulk of the $118.2 billion bill is allocated for aid to other countries, rather than for immigration purposes.

    Specifically, the bill earmarks $60.6 billion to support Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invasion; $14.1 billion to assist Israel following a terror attack by Hamas; $10 billion for humanitarian aid to civilians in both Ukraine and the Palestinian areas of Gaza and the West Bank; and $4.83 billion to help certain nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

    Additionally, the bill proposes $20.23 billion to strengthen the southern U.S. border. This includes tightening immigration controls, enhancing enforcement, and introducing new policies for migrants.

    The key strategy of the legislation is to connect foreign aid with immigration reforms. This approach aims to gather sufficient Republican backing, which is crucial for the bill’s passage through a Congress with divided opinions. Lankford said on ABC’s “This Week” in December, amid the ongoing talks, that the eventual deal had to be broad in scope.

    “There’s a reason that this hasn’t been done in decades, because it’s hard. It’s very technical work, and there’s a lot of challenges that are in it. And any time you deal with border security, there are a lot of complicating features in this. … But the most important thing is to be able to get this right,” he said then.

    The new legislation would give the secretary of homeland security the power to declare an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border and to remove or deny entry to any migrant within 100 miles of that border within a period of 14 days from the date of their entry.

    Under this bill, the secretary could declare such a border emergency if there is an average of 4,000 or more migrants encountered each day at the southern border over the course of seven consecutive days.

    Additionally, the secretary would be required to declare an emergency if there’s an average of 5,000 or more migrants encountered each day for seven consecutive days or if on any one day there are more than 8,500 encounters.

    There are exceptions, including for unaccompanied children and any unauthorized immigrant that Border Patrol agents believe should be excused for humanitarian or other reasons. (House Republican leaders said Monday that these proposed powers were “riddled with loopholes.”)

    What’s more, the bill would make modifications to so-called “catch and release” by requiring detention or mandatory supervision of all migrants processed at the border, though Republican critics said it was unacceptable for some migrants to be able to leave physical custody.

    Under the Senate legislation, there also remains a mandate to process some asylum claims at ports of entry.

    The secretary would be required to suspend any new border emergency after migrant encounters drop to less than 75% of what they were when the emergency was triggered for seven consecutive days. The president would also have the power to immediately suspend the border emergency for no more than 45 days at any time.

    But there are some restrictions on this provision: The border shutdown could only last up to 45 days at a time and couldn’t be used for more than 270 days in the first year.

    The bill also aims to disincentivize crossings by barring those who try to cross illegally more than twice during a declared emergency from entering the U.S. for a year.

    There is significant additional funding to beef up immigration review, including $440 million to hire additional immigration judge teams and to increase the capacity of the immigration courts to expeditiously process and adjudicate cases.

    The package includes millions of more dollars to combat human trafficking, enhance security at the border, assist the FBI in addressing the growing backlog of DNA samples collected from migrants and provide millions to help disrupt and dismantle cartels.

    There are also changes to the asylum system to expedite consideration of asylum claims. This would be done by adjudicating asylum claims through asylum officers rather than the immigration courts, easing the backlog that causes many cases to take years to be processed.

    The bill would heighten screening standards, making it harder to make an asylum claim.

    The legislative package would take more steps toward addressing the flow of fentanyl by authorizing Sen. Tim Scott’s entire FEND Off Fentanyl Act to impose sanctions on groups and nations that participate in the distribution of the ultra-deadly opioid.

    Scott’s proposal would require the president to prepare a list of possible entities to sanction but does not specify who.

    Additionally, the immigration deal includes a path to permanent legal status for Afghan nationals evacuated from their country after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021. rephrase and make it a little bit shorter

    Senator Lankford emphasized on ABC’s “This Week” in December that the complexity and technical challenges of border security are why such reforms haven’t been addressed in decades. He stressed the importance of getting it right.

    The proposed bill would allow the Homeland Security Secretary to declare an emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, enabling swift action to remove or deny entry to migrants within 100 miles of the border if certain thresholds of migrant encounters are met.

    It specifies conditions for declaring a border emergency based on the number of migrant encounters and includes provisions for handling asylum claims and detaining or supervising migrants processed at the border. The bill seeks to address the “catch and release” issue by mandating detention or supervision for all processed migrants, though there are critiques about the potential for some migrants to leave custody.

    The legislation also outlines when a border emergency must be suspended, limits on the duration of border shutdowns, and consequences for migrants who attempt illegal crossings during declared emergencies.

    Additionally, it proposes $440 million to expand the immigration court system, aims to combat human trafficking, enhance border security, support FBI efforts to process DNA samples from migrants, and disrupt cartel operations.

    The bill would change the asylum system to expedite claims and introduce stricter screening standards. It includes measures to combat the fentanyl crisis, such as imposing sanctions on entities involved in its distribution, as suggested in Senator Tim Scott’s FEND Off Fentanyl Act.

    Moreover, it offers a path to permanent legal status for Afghan nationals evacuated after the U.S. withdrawal in 2021.

    Source : ABC News







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