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Updated Jan 8, 2024, 9:54pm EST
politics

Border bill may delayed by stubborn sticking point

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
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Perhaps it should be called Schrödinger’s border deal, simultaneously alive or dead.

Only a day after expressing optimism that Senate negotiators could present legislative text on border enforcement to dislodge more Ukraine aid this week, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla. abruptly reversed his prediction and said he thought the timeline would slip to next week.

“We’ve got a couple of issues that I thought were resolved that are not resolved,” Lankford told Semafor, mentioning the administration’s parole authority as a key sticking point in the months-long bipartisan negotiations. Parole empowers the federal government to temporarily admit certain immigrants into the US under humanitarian grounds.

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Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who’s usually reluctant to share details of the closely-held talks, didn’t challenge the idea that parole remains an obstacle to a deal.

“The set of open issues are much narrower than they were when we saw each other last, but there’s still work to be done,” he told Semafor, adding there’s been “progress.”

Murphy didn’t want to predict when a bill would be unveiled. “My plan is to get [legislative] text as quickly as we can,” he said.

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Lankford specifically bashed the ability of migrants to quickly secure work authorization under the government’s parole authority, calling it “absurd.”

“For the last nine months, the administration has literally told anyone in the world that if you’ll tell us in advance that you’re coming, we’ll give you a work permit when you get here,’” Lankford told Semafor. “That’s not humanitarian parole.”

Migrants are barred from obtaining a work permit until six months after filing an asylum application, and only action from Congress can shorten the lengthy waiting period. But under growing pressure from Democratic mayors dealing with migrant arrivals and strained budgets, the Biden administration said late last year that it would attempt to expedite work permits so some migrants can financially support themselves. Under a humanitarian parole program allowing Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to temporarily live and work in the US while applying for asylum, the administration said it would attempt to slash the work permit waiting period from 90 days to 30 days.

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For now, Lankford still intends to brief Senate Republicans at a GOP conference meeting devoted to border enforcement on Wednesday, along with the House Republican Study Committee on the same day. “This is not one of those issues that no one’s tracking. Everybody’s tracking it,” he said. “So I think it’s fair to be able to get an update.”

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