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Senate leadership published the text of a $118 billion supplemental appropriation bill, complying with a Biden administration request, that would provide additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, among other priorities including $20 billion for border and migration management. It is the product of about two and a half months of negotiations between a small bipartisan group of senators.

Republican senators’ price for allowing this bill to go forward was new restrictions on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. But Republicans who insist on an even tougher crackdown on migration—including Donald Trump and leaders of the House of Representatives’ GOP majority—are lining up against the bill. Prospects for its passage are poor.

Of the legislative text’s 370 pages, 281 comprise the “Border Act,” a series of border security, immigration, and fentanyl-interdiction policy changes and spending items.

The text includes many of the controversial limits on access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border that had already been reported in media coverage. Among the bill’s many key provisions are:

  • Allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose a Title 42-like expulsion authority, “summarily removing” asylum-seekers from the United States (except for hard-to-prove Convention Against Torture appeals), when unauthorized migrant encounters reach a daily threshold.
    • This “Border Emergency Authority” would kick in when DHS encounters a seven-day average of 5,000 migrants per day or 8,500 in a single day; at its discretion DHS could start expelling people when the average hits 4,000.
    • As this threshold includes about 1,400 per day who approach ports of entry, expulsions would be mandatory when Border Patrol apprehends 3,600 or more people per day between ports of entry. Encounters have crossed that threshold in 34 of the Biden administration’s first 36 months.
    • It is not clear whether Mexico would agree to take back expelled migrants across the land border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have the capacity to carry out aerial deportations on this scale to countries beyond Mexico.
    • This Border Emergency Authority would “sunset,” or automatically be repealed, after three years. For each of the three years, DHS would have fewer days in which it could use it to expel asylum seekers.
  • Requiring asylum seekers placed in “expedited removal”—usually 20-25,000 per month right now, but likely to expand—to meet a much higher standard of “credible fear” in screening interviews with asylum officers.
  • Changes to the asylum system that would have asylum officers handing down most decisions in months, while making it rare for cases to be heard in immigration courts.
  • No substantive changes to the presidential authority to grant humanitarian parole.

President Biden called for the bill’s immediate passage and said he would sign it.

The bill quickly came under fire from Democrats who favor immigration reform and upholding migrants’ rights, and from Republicans who want a return to Donald Trump’s policies at the border.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) said that it was “dead on arrival” and would not come to a vote in their chamber. The House has instead scheduled a vote on a $17.6 billion standalone bill with aid for Israel and nothing else that was in the administration’s request.

Many Republicans have targeted the 5,000-encounter threshold in the “Border Emergency Authority,” incorrectly portraying it as allowing 5,000 migrants to be released into the United States (the 5,000 could just as likely be deported or detained).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to “test” whether the bill has the 60 out of 100 votes necessary to end debate and vote on it.

Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) “are counting on a center-right plus center-left supermajority of the Senate to vote for this measure,” wrote Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman, and John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “There’s no guarantee of enough support there.”

Thirteen Republican state governors joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in the border town of Eagle Pass. It was another show of conservative support as Texas challenges federal authority over border and migration policy, insisting that migrants are an “invasion” and blocking Border Patrol from full access to Eagle Pass’s sprawling riverfront park.

Abbott claimed, without evidence, that Texas’s policies are behind January’s drop in migration at the border, even though sectors in Arizona and California also saw reductions.

Abbott’s event somewhat overshadowed a right-wing gathering nearby, outside Eagle Pass; much coverage of this “convoy” focused on its participants’ religious fervor.

A deportation flight to Morelia, Mexico on January 30 was the first such flight to Mexico’s interior since May 2022, the New York Times reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Guardian accompanied volunteers in the wilderness of California’s central border zone, more than an hour’s drive east of San Diego, where they hike through hostile territory looking for people in territory where migrant deaths are frequent.

CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program visited this region and reported on asylum seekers turning themselves in to Border Patrol in difficult outdoor conditions, including a big increase in citizens of China.

Across the border from this region, in Mexico’s state of Baja California, INewsource reported that Mexico’s government “significantly escalated enforcement” this week, installing a camp at a point where asylum seekers frequently cross.