Updated Apr 9, 2023, 7:57am EDT
politicsNorth America

Inside the last best hope to solve the border crisis

Today we're launching our new video series, The Agenda, on Washington's highest-stakes challenges, and the good faith efforts to solve them. Our first episode: Border Crisis.


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The Agenda

Even as seemingly everyone agrees the border situation is a disaster,  the crucial elements of this issue run through Congress, which has been stalemated over basic disagreements for decades at this point.

But a group of moderates are working together towards what they hope is a bipartisan compromise that finally breaks the impasse, and some are starting to see increased legal immigration as the only realistic relief for an historically tight labor market.

“It needs to be where anybody who wants to come and work can do so,” Rep. Tony Gonzales — who represents nearly half the southern border in congress — told me. But don’t expect any kind of “comprehensive” reform — “a lesson to be taken from the past three decades of failed attempts to address immigration in Congress is this,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the media-shy lawmaker at the center of the talks, told me: “Don't throw out the good in search of the perfect.”

Watch above or on YouTube.



President Biden will end the public health emergency — which immigration enforcement currently uses to turn away hundreds of thousands asylum seekers — on May 11th.

A bipartisan, and potential bicameral, group of lawmakers will be putting forth piecewise reforms to the immigration crisis this year. The timing is not known, but are unlikely to arrive before the debt ceiling issue is resolved.  Rep. Gonzales recently tweeted he would vote to sink any debt ceiling deal if any “unchristian” anti-asylum bill came to the floor.

Watch above or on YouTube.


  • Theresa Cardinal Brown, featured in the piece, leads the Bipartisan Policy Center’s “This Week in Immigration” podcast and breaks down President Biden’s budget requests as immigration policy, including $1.5 billion for the Executive Office of Immigration Review to address its severe backlog of asylum claims, along with a $4.7 billion contingency fund for Customs and Border Patrol to use during migration surges.
  • The New York Times has an in-depth look at the “logjam” of migrants stuck in Mexico border shelters — Biden’s policies have reduced illegal crossing and increased tension on the other side of the border, including a fire at a Juarez migrant detention center that killed 38.
  • Dara Lind, featured briefly in the piece, wrote a fantastic essay about the problems with using Customs & Border Patrol’s “encounters” as the core measure of crisis.
  • Concerns about the border often come coupled with concerns about Fentanyl smuggling. The Cato Institute’s David Bier, who appears in the video, separates fact from fiction here.

Sign up for Semafor Principals: An insider’s guide to power in D.C. Read it now.