WASHINGTON — A bipartisan agreement has been reached by a trio of senators with the White House to overhaul American border policy, granting the president far-reaching powers to crack down on unlawful border crossings. The deal, which has been months in the making, would implement restrictions on access to the asylum system and increase deportations of those found to be ineligible for U.S. refuge, while still preserving asylum processing at official border crossings for eligible migrants.
The negotiations, led by Republican Sen. James Lankford, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, and top Biden administration officials, resulted in the first major update to the U.S. immigration system since the 1990s. The proposal also includes funding to equip Ukraine in its war against Russia, as well as military aid for Israel and humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza.
While the deal is likely to garner support among Democrats and some Republican senators, it faces uncertainty in the GOP-led House, with key conservatives denouncing elements of the negotiations. President Biden, who initially promised to “restore” the U.S. asylum system, has shifted towards embracing stricter restrictions on asylum after facing record levels of migrant apprehensions at the southern border.
If the bill is passed and signed into law, the federal government would gain a new sweeping emergency authority to reject most migrants when crossings along the southern border reach certain thresholds. The authority would allow the president to effectively pause asylum law, preventing most migrants on U.S. soil from requesting asylum if they entered the country illegally.
Additionally, the proposal would create a new asylum review process for migrants who are not deported under the emergency authority, aiming to provide final decisions on their asylum cases within months instead of the current years-long average.
The agreement also includes provisions to authorize billions of dollars to fund the surge in resources and personnel needed to implement the proposed border policy changes and expand legal immigration levels. It would also offer permanent American residency to the tens of thousands of Afghans brought to the U.S. after the fall of Kabul in 2021.
The deal represents a significant shift in immigration policy under the Biden administration, signaling a move towards tougher border and immigration laws while providing some expanded opportunities for legal immigration and residency.