Democrats, make a border deal to save Ukraine

In exchange for approving a supplemental national-security bill providing aid to Israel and Ukraine, Republican lawmakers are insisting on a far-reaching crackdown on the flow of migrants at the U.S.’s southern border. Many Democrats continue to resist the GOP’s demands. They should reconsider.

The Republicans’ plan is not unreasonable. They want to increase detentions of unauthorized migrants, curb the use of “humanitarian parole” to release asylum seekers into the U.S., and require that migrants apply for asylum in countries they pass through before arriving at the border. They say these measures would deter people from giving themselves up at the border, requesting asylum and then being granted entry until their cases are processed, often years later — an influx that is overwhelming communities stretching from El Paso to New York City.

Faced with criticism from Democratic mayors, President Joe Biden’s administration has backed some GOP proposals, including toughening the “credible fear” standard that migrants would have to meet in their initial screening to determine their eligibility for asylum. But Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats have balked at harsher restrictions and pushed to include a path to citizenship for the more than 2 million undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, a group Democrats refer to as the Dreamers.

Republicans have refused to give ground. Last week, they blocked Schumer’s attempt to advance the national-security bill, increasing the likelihood that the Pentagon will run out of aid for Ukraine in early 2024.

It’s fair to say Republicans are acting cynically. But such is life in divided government. Failing to make an immigration deal that unlocks additional Ukraine aid would hand a Christmas present to Vladimir Putin and waste the $110 billion in U.S. taxpayer money that’s already gone to defend the country. It would also scuttle Congress’s best opportunity in years to make meaningful reforms to an asylum system that both parties describe as broken. If Democrats think they can reject efforts to restrict unlawful entry and escape blame for the results, they’re deluding themselves.

Biden needs to step in. He should insist that Democrats redouble efforts to reach a deal, despite potential opposition from progressives, and lay out the terms he’d be willing to accept. The White House appears to have signaled some openness to additional deterrence measures, including expanding the government’s authority to deport unauthorized migrants and sending some to third countries while their cases are processed. That should be the basis of compromise. A policy that combines tighter restrictions on asylum with more funding to hire immigration judges and protections for at least some of the Dreamers — those who’ve been in the country for more than 10 years or have earned college degrees, for instance — would be in the interests of both parties and provide a first step toward comprehensive reform.

If the Democrats miss this opportunity to address the problem, the whole country will pay the price.

This editorial first appeared in Bloomberg Opinion. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.

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