Congress is on a break until January 17, but immigration negotiations are still ongoing between the White House and a bipartisan group of senators. The talks are aimed at reaching a deal on new immigration policies that would unlock aid for foreign allies, such as Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, but also address some of the challenges facing the U.S. border and asylum system.
One of the main sticking points in the negotiations is the Biden administration’s use of humanitarian parole to authorize certain migrants who apply in advance to temporarily live and work legally in the U.S. Humanitarian parole has been a key part of the Biden administration’s “carrot and stick” approach to migration, which seeks to make it harder for migrants to seek asylum at the border and easier for them to apply for entry from their home countries.
However, Republicans have criticized the policy for sending mixed messages and have demanded new restrictions on it. They want to limit or eliminate humanitarian parole for migrants from countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. They argue that these countries are not facing genuine persecution or violence and that humanitarian parole should be reserved for cases of humanitarian crisis or urgent need.
Democrats have pushed back against these proposals, saying that they would undermine asylum seekers who have legitimate reasons to flee their home countries and seek protection in the U.S. They also point out that humanitarian parole has been used by previous administrations under different circumstances, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic or after natural disasters. They warn that restricting humanitarian parole would create more uncertainty and hardship for migrants who are already vulnerable.
Another issue under discussion in the Senate talks is how to handle asylum claims at the border. Some Republicans want to mandate that migrants be detained pending adjudication of their asylum claims, while Democrats oppose this idea. They argue that detaining migrants would violate their human rights and create more problems for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which does not have enough space or resources to hold all undocumented immigrants.
Some middle ground has been reached on expanding detention space so ICE can hold more migrants who are not considered a security risk. However, this solution may not be enough to address the root causes of migration or prevent future crises.
The negotiations are expected to resume after Congress returns from its break. The outcome will depend on whether both sides can find common ground on these key issues or whether they will resort to other tactics such as procedural maneuvers or political pressure. The fate of millions of migrants who are waiting for their legal status or protection will also be at stake.