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Critics Blast Bipartisan Immigration Bill as “Disgrace” That Will Harm Migrants

The proposed bill "will result in more cruelty and chaos at our nation’s border," one pro-immigration group said.

Texas National Guard troops reinforce razor wire after immigrants crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas, on January 30, 2024, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Critics are condemning a proposal by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators that would overhaul the immigration system, noting that the bill would diminish the rights of asylum seekers.

The bipartisan bill, introduced on Sunday by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), has been months in the making. In addition to implementing several changes to current immigration standards, it would also increase funding to support the military operations of Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

The bill would make it more difficult for people to cross the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum — an internationally recognized right — and would give presidents and their administrations greater powers to deport migrants in the event of sudden influxes of immigrants coming through border checkpoints. The bill would also allow the detention of migrants as their claims are being considered.

The legislation would grant presidential administrations the power to turn migrants away from the border if an average of 4,000 migrants cross checkpoints daily over a one-week period. If 5,000 migrants cross the border during that timespan, the president would be required to turn them away.

The bill expedites the processing time for those seeking asylum, which can sometimes take several years, to just six months. It also removes the process from immigration courts, potentially denying asylum-seekers their due process rights, and would raise legal standards by which asylum-seekers can apply for temporary or permanent entry to the U.S.

The likelihood of the bill passing currently appears to be very low, as far right Republicans, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), have announced their opposition to the proposal. The rejection of the bill likely came about so quickly due to former President Donald Trump’s demands that the GOP oppose it. Reports have indicated that, in private, Trump has told these lawmakers that opposition is necessary to help him keep the issue of immigration on the minds of American voters in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

The White House, meanwhile, has endorsed the plan. “The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the bipartisan agreement announced in the Senate,” the administration said in a fact sheet it shared on its government website.

Immigration rights organizations have denounced the plan for being harmful to migrants and for perpetuating disastrous military policies.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of New York Immigration Coalition, described the legislation as a “disgrace” that does “nothing other than exacerbate the humanitarian and operational challenges at the border, while advancing the extremist, anti-immigrant agenda of Trump’s GOP.”

“President Biden has turned his back on our communities, capitulating to the cynical political games of MAGA Republicans simply to move forward with foreign aid,” Awawdeh added.

Welcome With Dignity campaign for asylum rights said that it, too, opposes the proposal.

“The newly introduced Senate funding bill, if passed, will result in more cruelty and chaos at our nation’s border,” the organization said in a statement. “The bill is poisoned with extreme anti-immigrant policies that would essentially end access to asylum a legal pathway for people fleeing persecution.”

“This outrageous proposal would enshrine Trump-era immigration policies in exchange for a one-time military aid package that includes unconditional support for Israel’s disastrous military campaign in Gaza. It’s a terrible deal, and Democrats in Congress must reject it,” Working Families Party National Director Maurice Mitchell said in a press release. Mitchell added:

This deal also risks fragmenting the coalition of voters that defeated the right-wing authoritarianism of Donald Trump in 2020 … If Democrats betray their stated values on immigration, and ignore the rising tide calling for a ceasefire and de-escalation in Israel and Palestine, they could lose the young voters and progressive Black and brown voters they need to beat back a resurgent MAGA movement in 2024.

Marisa Limón Garza, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, also expressed opposition to the bill.

“Closing the border, creating a new ‘metering’ system, and debilitating our asylum laws will do nothing to address the underlying issues that force vulnerable children and families to flee their homes, seeking safety and a better life,” Garza said in a press release. “Although the bill contains small silver linings, they come at too high a cost. This deal will ultimately subject more families to an unsafe migratory journey.”

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