Senate negotiators on Wednesday reached a preliminary agreement on a border security bill that would dramatically raise the cap on foreign visas and allow more than 1.8 million illegal crossings a year, a summary of the provisions obtained by the Washington Free Beacon shows.
The draft bill is an effort to please immigration hardliners and progressive Democrats who want to preserve the Biden administration’s border policies, which have facilitated a record number of illegal crossings. The bill, the result of negotiations between Sens. James Lankford (R., Okla.), Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), and Kyrsten Sinema (I., Ariz.), would also raise the annual number of visas issued, and trigger automatic migrant deportations once the total number of illegal border crossings exceeds 2 million annually.
The latter provision is an effort to appease conservatives, who slammed the Biden administration for suspending Trump-era deportation policies. But critics of the deal who spoke with the Free Beacon say the provision is worthless, since deportations would only resume if the border saw more than 5,000 illegal crossings per day. These individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also objected to the proposed issuance of an additional 50,000 immigrant visas annually.
There is little chance the agreement reaches President Joe Biden’s desk as written. House Republican leadership is unified in its opposition to the bill, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) suggested on Wednesday that there may be no path forward for the legislation, citing pushback from former president Donald Trump.
"It’s been obvious for weeks that the votes for this deal simply do not exist in the House, now we’re learning it’s even worse than expected," a Republican strategist told the Free Beacon. "House Republicans already passed a border bill, Senate negotiators should tell Democrats they can take it or leave it."
Proponents of the bill point to provisions taken from H.R. 2, the House Republican immigration reform law that passed the lower chamber last year. Those include limits to presidential parole authority, by which the White House can let otherwise ineligible illegal aliens remain in the United States. The bill would also implement new standards for migrants seeking asylum, which supporters say would enable authorities to deport 75 percent of all illegal crossers.
Still, without more concessions to the right—for instance, restricting federal funding of nonprofits House Republicans say facilitate illegal immigration—the bill could die in the Senate. Such an outcome would imperil military aid to Ukraine, which both the White House and the Senate mean to pair with immigration reform.
Speaking Wednesday evening, McConnell suggested that the Senate may need to decouple the issues, as "the politics on this has changed."
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.) has repeatedly said he will not consider a Ukraine aid bill until Congress increases border security. Johnson’s conservative colleagues have threatened to oust him should he move on Ukraine before reaching a border deal.
"Before we even talk about Ukraine, I’m going to tell the president [what] I’m telling all of you, and we’ve told the American people: border, border, border," Johnson said earlier this month. "We have to take care of our own house. We have to secure our own border before we talk about doing anything else."
Immigration authorities have recorded more than 6.3 million illegal border crossings since Biden took office. More than two million of those have been released into the United States.