Dueling Big Immigration Bills

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From National Immigration Forum’s Legislative Bulletin: Lawmakers Propose Competing Visions on Border Security, Immigration Reform Ahead of Title 42’s Planned End

On April 19, a restrictive immigration bill was reported favorably out of the House Judiciary Committee after a near party-line vote that followed hours of tense debate late into the night.

The proposed legislation combines a number of immigration-related priorities for the House majority, including severely limiting asylum, curtailing parole and other humanitarian protections, ramping up detention, and cracking down on people who overstay their visas.

But even as lawmakers discussed and eventually advanced the bill — likely for consideration on the House floor in coming weeks — their more moderate Republican colleagues warned that the legislation still has “a long way to go before it hits prime time.”

“As an immigrant myself, I will never support anything that doesn’t allow for valid asylum claims,” Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Florida) said. “That’s what America is all about.”

During the committee markup Wednesday, Judiciary Republicans did agree to remove an especially polemical provision that could have suspended the entry of migrants into the United States, largely choking off access to asylum. But even with that amendment, the bill would still significantly impede asylum seekers’ ability to pursue protection claims. And other controversial proposals also remain, like a section of the bill that would restrict the executive’s parole powers and another that would mandate employers to verify their workers’ immigration statuses.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) released an alternative framework on Tuesday to respond to large-scale migration at the southern border as part of a regional diaspora. His plan focuses on four “pillars:” creating and expanding legal immigration pathways, increasing resources at the border, expanding assistance and financing for migrants across the hemisphere, and countering transnational crime around human trafficking and smuggling.

Amid decades of congressional inaction on immigration, Menendez’s proposal details a response to the current situation at the southern border and beyond that relies heavily on the Biden administration — not lawmakers — to make changes.

“I do believe that there are a series of executive actions the administration can take that would more effectively and humanely deal with our challenges,” Menendez told the New York Times.

These competing visions of how to address emergent immigration policy and border security concerns come even as the federal government prepares for the planned end next month of the Title 42 policy, which has functioned as an enforcement tool allowing officials to quickly expel migrants without the chance to claim asylum for years now.

On Tuesday, three House Democrats wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledging a potential increase in asylum seekers arriving at the southern border once the Title 42 public health order expires. The lawmakers expressed a desire to work with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to ensure officials can “expeditiously and humanely process and care for these individuals.” They applauded DHS for expanding legal pathways and encouraged more efforts to do so, while also urging the department to provide adequate housing for migrants in custody, quickly process people, and keep building partnerships with NGOs.

Separately, Mayorkas said Thursday that the administration would have more to share next week on how it’s preparing for Title 42’s expected end at the southern border, including through the addition of more detention beds.