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With GOP pushing hard on immigration, parole emerges as a make-or-break issue in Congress


Ariana Figueroa, Nevada Current
January 18, 2024

WASHINGTON — Passage of a multi-billion-dollar supplemental package hinges on curbing an executive authority used to grant immigration protection, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a Wednesday press conference.

“If we don’t fix parole, there will be no deal,” Graham said alongside Senate Republican Whip John Thune of South Dakota.

Graham said parole is a “red line” for Senate Republicans, and his comments came as President Joe Biden met with congressional leaders to advocate for more than $100 billion in aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and U.S. border security. Republicans have tied changes in immigration policy to their support for the supplemental, which the White House has said is essential to aid countries the U.S. supports.

“As these negotiations, we hope, conclude soon, there have been some significant gains made in terms of policies that are real,” Thune said, adding that some of those policies include “dealing with asylum, dealing with border security measures, whether that be a physical wall or technical barriers.”

The strong focus in Congress on immigration policy follows the Iowa caucuses, where former president Donald Trump easily won and vowed in his victory speech to push for harsher immigration policies. Those policies, which call for mass deportations and the continuation of building a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border, are the center of his presidential reelection campaign.

“We’re going to seal up the border,” Trump, the GOP front-runner, said to a cheering crowd after his Monday win, adding that there is an “invasion” from the people claiming asylum at the Southern border.

U.S. House Republicans on Wednesday conducted two separate hearings and a vote slamming the Biden administration’s immigration policy, amid the continuation of impeachment proceedings of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

The House also voted on a resolution, H.Res. 957, put forth by GOP Rep. Nathaniel Moran of Texas, that condemns the Biden administration’s immigration policy at the border. It passed 225-187, with 14 Democrats joining Republicans.

Those Democrats include Reps. Mary Peltola of Alaska; Yadira Caraveo of Colorado; Jared Moskowitz of Florida; Eric Sorensen of Illinois; Jared Golden of Maine; Angie Craig of Minnesota; Susie Lee of Nevada; Wiley Nickel and Don Davis of North Carolina; Greg Landsman of Ohio; Henry Cuellar, Colin Allred, and Vicente Gonzalez Jr. of Texas; and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington.

“The president has failed to maintain operation control of this nation’s borders,” Minnesota GOP Rep. Michelle Fischbach said on the House floor during debate of the resolution.

Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon said on the House floor during debate that the resolution is a GOP campaign tool.

“It’s an effort to keep campaigning on the fear of immigrants rather than any serious attempt to address the complex issues created by global migration forces and decades of congressional inaction,” she said.

What is parole?

To handle the increase of people at the Southern border, the Biden administration has used its executive authority to grant parole — something that presidents have employed since the 1950s — to allow non-citizens to temporarily reside and work in the United States.

Graham said that Republicans’ top negotiator on border policy, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, has negotiated “meaningful reforms” in immigration policy through expedited removal procedures and changes to asylum law. But Graham argued that “none of those reforms will work until you deal with parole.”

The Biden administration has used parole authority in two ways. The first is a limit for certain nationals such as Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans to temporarily work and live in the U.S. The White House also used parole authority for more than 140,000 Ukrainians and more than 76,000 Afghans. ​​

So far, there have been 168,000 benefactors from the Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan Parole Program, according to the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank that tracks migration.

The administration has also used parole authority on a case-by-case basis for migrants at the border. For fiscal year 2022, more than 370,000 people were granted parole at the border and in fiscal year 2023, more than 304,000 people were granted parole at the border, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

While there is no bill text or framework for an immigration deal, Republicans have floated the idea of raising the bar for migrants to claim asylum, and curbing the White House’s use of parole authority.

Graham warned Republicans to take the deal the Senate and White House make, because if Trump is in the White House in 2025, “Democrats will be expecting a pathway to citizenship for that (deal) in my view.”

“So to my Republican friends, to get this kind of border security without granting a pathway to citizenship is really unheard of,” Graham said.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, whom Democrats tapped for negotiations on immigration policy, said that the Senate is close to a deal.

“Our goal is to give the executive branch new tools to better manage the border while living up to our values as a nation of immigrants,” he said during a Wednesday press conference.

House priorities

Additionally, House Speaker Mike Johnson has continued to push for the hard-line immigration policies of H.R. 2 while a bipartisan trio in the Senate that also includes independent Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona along with Lankford and Murphy works to strike a deal on immigration policy.

Johnson said that when he attends a meeting at the White House scheduled for Wednesday about funding for Ukraine, he will push for policies at the Southern border.

“We have to take care of our own house,” Johnson said during a press conference earlier Wednesday. “We have to secure our own border before we talk about anything else.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has called H.R. 2 a nonstarter in the Senate.

“The hard right — typical of them — in the House have insisted on passing a highly partisan bill, H.R. 2, word-for-word,” the New York Democrat said on the Senate floor.

“That is not bipartisanship. Any agreement on an issue as complex and contentious as the border is going to have to have enough support from both sides.”

The House Oversight & Accountability Committee held a hearing Wednesday that focused on how the Biden administration rolled back numerous hard-right immigration policies of the Trump administration that many courts struck down. Those included the “Remain in Mexico” policy that required migrants to wait in Mexico while their asylum cases were processed and the so-called “Muslim ban” that barred entry from countries with a predominately Muslim population.

During the committee hearing, GOP Chair James Comer of Kentucky argued that no amount of funding will help the Southern border, “because what we are seeing isn’t a money problem, it’s a policy problem.

“It’s a problem of not enforcing U.S. immigration law,” he said.

The top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, said the hearing was an opportunity for Republicans to show how they will run on immigration policy in the upcoming 2024 election.

“It has become obvious that Trump’s party doesn’t want immigration solutions at the border, they want immigration problems to run against,” Raskin said.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Shontel Brown said that the immigration system that Biden inherited “has been broken for a very long time.” She argued that the supplemental package the Senate and White House are negotiating will help officials as they handle the increase in migrants claiming asylum at the border.

“Extreme Republicans have a choice — they can keep using immigration to try to score political points, or they can help solve the problem,” Brown said.

An oversight panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee also held a late-afternoon hearing on how the Biden administration’s policies at the Southern border have impacted the heath, safety and economics of U.S. communities.

And on Thursday, the House Homeland Security committee will hold its second hearing into the impeachment proceedings for Mayorkas.

Mayorkas has agreed to testify before Congress, but the committee has not announced if he will be a witness.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Nevada Current under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.