House Republicans don’t actually want to fix the border

by Patricia Lopez

House Republicans have a chance to prove they want to solve their declared border crisis, and not just as a means to inflame their base in an election year.

Senate GOP leaders are supporting a bipartisan compromise on immigration, one that would give them much of what they want. The proposal would raise the bar for asylum seekers, make it easier to remove migrants from the border and restrict their ability to stay in the U.S. while they await processing. The deal would also unlock emergency aid to Ukraine and Israel.

But hardline House Republicans, egged on by former President Donald Trump, are threatening to kill the package, arguing it doesn’t go far enough.

Senate leaders contend this is the deal of a lifetime and even Sen. Lindsey Graham, an ardent Trump supporter, warned his House counterparts that if they’re holding hold out for a Trump reelection, they won’t get a better deal. They would need a filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate for passage. Senate Minority Whip John Thune, of South Dakota, concurred, adding, “the timing is right to do this.”

Of course, that would mean relinquishing an issue far-right Republicans have spent decades cultivating in favor of actual progress on border control.

Trump, as he did in 2018, is doing his best to scuttle any potential deal that might rob him of his signature issue. He’s demanding that Republicans do not what’s best for the country, or even the party, but for him. He has publicly excoriated any potential deal, and recently wrote on Truth Social that “I do not think we should do a Border Deal, at all, unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION of Millions & Millions of people …” “I have no doubt that our wonderful Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, will only make a deal that is PERFECT ON THE BORDER.”

But rejecting another border deal is not without risk for Republicans. The public is beginning to see that it’s House Republicans who are blocking any movement on border control. They’re the real obstacle, not President Joe Biden.

In addition to the deal’s other elements, the White House funding request seeks $14 billion for U.S. border security. That’s enough to pay for 1,300 more border patrol agents, more asylum officers and hundreds of judge teams to ease the serious backlogs that are clogging the system. More agents, more officers and more judges would go a long way toward restoring a measure of order.

Biden isn’t disputing the seriousness of the border issue. He said as recently as December that “I’ve made it clear that we need Congress to make changes to fix what is a broken immigration system, because … we all know it’s broken,” and that he was willing to do “significantly more,” including changes to policy to keep the deal on track.

A major sticking point between Senate Republicans and Biden remains longstanding presidential authority to allow migrants into the U.S. under special circumstances known as “humanitarian parole.” One of the most recent examples was in 2021, when tens of thousands of Afghans were relocated to the U.S. following this country’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

According to the National Immigration Forum, under humanitarian parole refugees are protected from deportation and can obtain work permits. It’s not meant as a path to citizenship and it offers no extended benefits for family members.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans want restrictions on its use and that’s part of the give and take of compromise. That’s reasonable.

What’s not reasonable is House Republicans’ insistence on something that can never pass a Senate controlled — if only marginally — by Democrats.

Caught in all this is still-new House Speaker Mike Johnson, who’s facing a rebellion from the far-right wing of his conference where a single vote can trigger a motion to vacate — the first step toward ushering him out. He’s already under fire for agreeing to another short-term funding deal to avoid a government shutdown.

So what do the hardliners want? They’re insisting that Biden authorize the 900-mile border wall that Trump promised but failed to deliver during his presidency. They want complete control over shutting down the border if necessary, and to deport even unaccompanied minors to their countries of origin. Trump himself has repeatedly promised to conduct the biggest deportation operations in history.

Senate Republicans, to their credit, are taking the issue seriously and doing what responsible leaders do – negotiate. House Republicans should do the same, or risk the ire of voters who see through their tactics.

Patricia Lopez is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering politics and policy.