Biden would veto the House GOP border control bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden would veto a House GOP bill aimed at limiting asylumbuild more of a border wall and cut a program that allows migrants to stay in the U.S., including Ukrainian refugees, the White House said Monday.

Republicans are looking to capitalize on growing immigration issues in the national spotlight this week with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions that allowed border officials to quickly turn back many migrants who crossed the border illegally.

GOP lawmakers aim to vote on their Border Security Act on Thursday — the same day emergency deportation powers expire. Authorities have already seen an increase in migrants at the US-Mexico border and are bracing for more.

The legislation represents the first major GOP immigration policy proposal of the Trump era, when opponents of immigration controlled the White House. The 213-page bill resurrects a number of former President Donald Trump’s policies, such as building barriers along hundreds of miles of border country, and in some cases goes beyond his efforts.

It faces strong headwinds from some Republicans representing agricultural districts because of requirements that companies verify the legal immigration status of employees, and even if it passes the GOP House, it has little chance of passing the Democratic-held Senate. But if it lands on the president’s desk, he will veto it.

The Biden administration has regularly argued that Congress needs to take significant action at the border to fix major problems that have led to record numbers of people crossing illegally. But that’s not the way to do it, according to the White House.

“While we applaud Congress’ commitment to meaningful steps to address immigration and border challenges, this bill would make things worse, not better,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement. “Because this bill does so little to actually increase border security while doing so much to trample on the nation’s core values ​​and international obligations, it must be defeated.”

In the absence of legislation, the Biden administration passed policy changes earlier this week that combine stricter border enforcement with an increased ability for migrants to apply for asylum as long as they come legally, have a sponsor and pass background checks. The decisions are an attempt to persuade immigrants to skip the dangerous journey north and to apply for asylum through a new application or at regional centers opening in Guatemala and Colombia.

Congress in recent decades has been traditional addressed changes in border security and immigration law by combining stronger border enforcement measures with policy changes that expanded legal pathways or granted legal status to undocumented immigrants already in the US

The House GOP applies the same logic — pairing a border security package with rule changes for immigration reform — hoping to unite mainstream and far-right lawmakers. But instead of expanding legal routes for migrants, the package restricts them.

“Joe Biden sent out a message that America’s border is open, and millions of people answered that call and began crossing our border illegally,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., said at a news conference, adding: ” We’ll show the president how to fix the problem.

The bill would expand border wall construction, which has been a major focus of Trump, who has claimed he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. It would also essentially choke off asylum, requiring migrants to cross legally, pay a $50 fee and meet tougher requirements to show in initial interviews that they are fleeing political, religious or racial persecution.

It would also scale back a program that has allowed U.S. officials to accept or quickly reject some migrants from Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba and Nicaragua. The program is a cornerstone of Biden’s immigration efforts, allowing migrants from those countries to apply to come to the U.S. for two years legally and work. In theory, it could also ban Ukrainian refugees because they are in the US under the same kind of agreement.

The statement from the Office of Management and Budget said the Republican bill would mean “ending nearly all access to humanitarian protection in ways that are inconsistent with our nation’s values ​​and international obligations.” This would also reduce the funding required.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Sens. Tom Tillis, R-North Carolina, and Kirsten Sinema, R-Ariz., have proposed legislation that would give federal officials the power to quickly deport migrants for two more years. The pair are also working on a Senate proposal that would expand legal immigration while increasing border security.

Some House Republicans hope their bill could offer the start of negotiations with the Senate.

As lawmakers began shaping the proposal last month, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican who has pushed for changes to immigration rules for years, said, “We need to get the votes in the House to pass a serious border security bill, make sure that this problem won’t just go away.”

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