March 2024 poll on immigration

A Wall Steet Journal poll:

Support the bipartisan package: 59%

Support creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for many years and pass a background check: 74%

Support creating a mechanism for Dreamers to gain citizenship: 66%

Support increasing the level of legal immigration to the U.S.: 58%

Rank immigration as their top issue: 20%, up from 13% in December and above any other topic, including the economy.

Agree with the statement that Biden had allowed more illegal immigration by reversing executive orders that Trump had put in place as president: 45%

Republicans killed the bipartisan deal in the Senate: 39%


The new House immigration bill

The Immigration Forum has analyzed the new House bill on immigration: The Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act (H.R. 7372) introduced on February 15, 2024 by a bipartisan group of House members. Below is a condensed version of the Forum’s analysis. In a nut shell, the bill expands expulsion authority, provides for but then qualifies humanitarian exceptions, imposes “Remain in Mexico” (which requires Mexican agreement), and does not increase immigration staffing, needed both to handle current volume and to reduce the backlog. Funding for Ukraine, Israel and West Asian national security is included.

The Immigration Forum’s analysis (condensed):

The bill includes changes to border security and asylum policies, along with $66.32 billion in national security spending. Key provisions require immigration officers to expel migrants at the southern border for one year, give the DHS Secretary authority to suspend entry of migrants, limit transferring detained migrants, and restart the Migrant Protection Protocols (“Remain in Mexico”) program. Exceptions allow migrants with credible fear of persecution or torture to be screened by asylum officers.

However, the bill provides no funding to reduce asylum backlogs. A concerning provision allows DHS to override humanitarian protections and categorically bar asylum seekers. The bill also restricts use of funds to transfer migrants for medical care or to avoid overcrowding.

To process migrants at ports of entry, it requires determining safe processing capacity per location and prioritizing those with disabilities, medical needs or fear of persecution. While seeking to enhance border security, the bill risks undermining humanitarian protections and due process for migrants.

Key concerns include expanded expulsion authority, barriers to asylum, and limits on migrant transfers needed for health and safety. The legislation comes as an alternative to a failed Senate bipartisan immigration deal, signalling continued partisan disagreement over immigration reform.


The immigration reform efforts in 2007 and 2013 that failed

A retrospective analysis of the last serious bi-partisan efforts at immigration reform, in 2007 and  2013, which failed thanks to intense opposition by right wing Republicans.


When George W. Bush was re-elected president in 2004 with significant Hispanic support, he saw an opening for an immigration overhaul and a signature second-term achievement. He began pressing for action in 2006 in an Oval Office address.

[The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 was a bipartisan effort led by Senators Ted Kennedy and John McCain. It proposed a path to legalization for many of the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, including those who had been in the country for over 5 years and met certain conditions like learning English and paying fees and fines. The bill also proposed increases in legal immigration, a temporary guest worker program, and increased enforcement including border fencing. The compromise bill was the result of months of bipartisan negotiations and won initial Senate approval, but ultimately failed to overcome a filibuster and receive final passage in the Senate in June 2007 due in part to opposition from voters and interest groups on multiple fronts.]


The next big push came in 2013 and 2014. The re-election of Barack Obama in 2012 had exposed declining Republican appeal to Hispanic voters and persuaded party leaders that they must embrace an immigration overhaul to halt that slide.

While talks quietly got underway in the House, a bipartisan “Gang of Eight” emerged in the Senate. On the Republican side, it included John McCain of Arizona; Marco Rubio of Florida, a rising star with Hispanic and conservative credibility; and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina. Democratic participants included Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Mr. Durbin and Michael Bennet of Colorado.

What emerged from months of deliberations was the 1,200-page Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

[The legislation proposed major changes to immigration policy. It sought to increase border security by adding fences, surveillance drones, and 20,000 more Border Patrol agents. It proposed a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, requiring them to pay fines and back taxes, learn English, and wait 10 years for a green card. The bill expanded opportunities for highly educated immigrants, allocating 55,000 new visas for those with advanced degrees. It also established a guest worker program for lower-skilled workers in agriculture, while mandating the use of E-Verify for all employers. The bill aimed to reduce backlogs in family reunification visas. It also sought to promote economic development in Mexico to reduce illegal immigration.]

In contrast to 2007, the bill cleared the Senate with surprising strength, attracting 68 votes, including 14 Republicans and all Democrats. Mr. Schumer said at the time that the level of support would force the House to take up the issue, a dynamic similar to today, when senators hope a solid Senate vote will propel any plan over House Republican resistance.

.Hoping to rally House Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner used a party retreat in January 2014 to unveil a set of immigration “principles” that were heavy on border security. They also omitted a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, but instead proposed allowing them to remain in the United States and work if they met certain tests, including paying taxes and admitting they broke the law. But within days, Mr. Boehner was backtracking under pressure from the right, and the effort stalled. Boehner refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the House.



An exceedingly wierd 24 hours

Helen Cox Richardson characterized the events yesterday, Monday February 5th, as exceedingly weird, when Republicans repudiated an immigration + national security bill that they helped to fashion Here are her remarks, compressed somewhat.

The Senate on Sunday, the 4th, unveiled a national security supplemental bill, the result of four months of bipartisan negotiations. The bill aimed to address multiple crises, including offering aid to Ukraine, Israel, and Gaza, alongside measures to secure the U.S. southern border. This move was partly in response to demands from extremist House Republicans, who insisted on border security measures as a condition for supporting the aid package. The bill proposed $60.1 billion in military aid for Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel, $10 billion in humanitarian aid for various crises, and approximately $20 billion for U.S. border security enhancements. These enhancements included hiring additional officials, expanding detention facilities, tighthening the overwhelmed amnesty system, and improving drug detection methods.

As Richardson wrote, “It appears the MAGA Republicans never really intended for such a measure to pass. They apparently thought that demanding that Congress agree to a border measure, which it has not been able to do now for decades, would kill the national security bill altogether. Certainly, once news began to spread that the negotiators were close to a deal, both former president Trump and House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who said he was conferring with Trump, came out strongly against the measure even before anyone knew what was in it.”

The opposition to the bill, especially from MAGA Republicans, seemed to undermine efforts to support Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, a stance that not only affects international security but also the moral and strategic interests of the U.S. This opposition continued even though the bill included significant concessions to Republican demands for border security, showcasing a complex interplay of domestic politics and international security commitments. The rejection of the bill by key Republican figures, despite its potential passage in the House, highlighted deep divisions and the influence of Trump’s agenda on the Republican Party’s approach to national security and foreign policy.

Michele Hackman’s analysis of the Senate bill


This is a summary of Hackman’s analysis in this morning’s Wall Street Journal (2/5/24).It does not include the provision for aid to Ukraine and Israel, rather focuses on the immigration provisions.

Setting up a new process at the southern border

A new asylum determination system is proposed, designed to process migrants within approximately 90 days. This system applies to all migrants, regardless of their mode of entry into the U.S., with a focus on rapid screenings and potential detainment for adults, while families with minors would likely be monitored through devices. The process includes stringent initial screenings, with non-compliance leading to swift deportation. However, timelines for these procedures are flexible, with protections for those experiencing delays.

Creating a new expulsion authority

The bill suggests a temporary authority to limit asylum claims during surges in border crossings, inspired by the Title 42 policy. This measure allows the government to restrict border entries when illegal crossings exceed specific thresholds, aiming to prevent the overwhelming of detention capacities. Even during such shutdowns, a certain number of asylum appointments would still be processed, ensuring some level of access to asylum procedures.

Limiting humanitarian parole at the border

Restrictions are placed on the use of humanitarian parole at the southern border, focusing instead on legal entry points like airports for humanitarian reasons. This change aims to streamline border entries and maintain specific humanitarian programs for nationals from countries like Ukraine and Venezuela.

Expanding legal immigration

The legislation plans to increase the availability of Green Cards by 50,000 annually for five years, targeting both family reunification and employment-based categories. This expansion is intended to alleviate the backlog and long wait times currently faced by many immigrants, especially from high-demand countries.

Creating a path to citizenship for Afghan refugees

An Afghan Adjustment Act within the bill would offer a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for Afghan refugees evacuated during the U.S. military withdrawal, addressing the legal limbo many face.

Including a fix for ‘documented dreamers’

The bill proposes solutions for “documented dreamers,” children of legal immigrants who lose their status upon turning 21 due to Green Card backlogs. It aims to prevent these individuals from being forced out of the U.S. by allowing them to remain under their parents’ visa status until they can secure permanent residency.



Senate and House immigration bills

The Senate bill is available, to be read. Here are official summaries of the two competing immigration reform bills.

Senate’s Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act 2024 here.

See this instant analysis of the Senate bill and Republican response to it here by Austin Kocher

House Republican’s H.2 Secure the Border Act of 2023 here.

See this analysis of H.2 by the National Immigration Forum.






Are Dems, Reps or both responsible for polarization?

Washington Post columnist Jason Willick writes that Democrats have moved to the left – more inclusive – while the Republicans have remained evenly divided between inclusive and restrictive members.

Jason cites this research article, saying (I assume drawing from the article) “In 1994, just 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans on both sides wanted immigration levels to increase. They drifted apart gradually in the 2000s and suddenly in the 2010s. In 2022, 41 percent of Democrats, compared with 10 percent of Republicans, supported higher immigration levels.”

I covered this split in 2023 here.

Polarization vs politization?

In reality, while polls reveal a lot of polarization on both sides, what is not well reflected in the polls is the saliency, or the importance of immigration – how important it is to the people being polled – and what they want to do about it politically. We need to pay attention to how groups in America politicize immigration.  When we take that into account it becomes evident that many conservatives tend to have very pronounced cultural misgivings about immigration and are willing to communicate these misgivings politically by supporting Trump.  There is no Democratic politician or Democratic movement that is anywhere near Trump in pushing an inclusive policy.




What is the controversy about parole in the immigration system?

The Senate negotiations over immigration include the subject of “parole.” Here is my posting on the Biden Administration’s use of parole to greatly expand legal temporary entry into the U.S.

Here is what the Migration Policy Institute wrote a few days ago about parole:

“Because of temporary protections, such as parole, extended to hundreds of thousands of arriving migrants, approximately 2.3 million people living in the United States hold liminal legal statuses, a ballooning population in limbo that may prove an enduring legacy of the Biden administration.”

Here is a Congressional Research Service 2020 analysis of parole.

A core issue today is whether the administration is permitted to use parole for large groups of people – which it has, for 100s of thousands of persons – or to restrict its use to a case by case basis. The Trump administration attempted to make it clear that only case by case use is acceptable.

Here is an analysis from the Migration Policy Institute study of border security about the use of parole now at the Mexican border.

“The Immigration and Nationality Act (1965) allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to  use parole on a case-by-case basis to grant noncitizens permission to lawfully enter the country for a  ertain length of time for humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit…

Parole can be used by Border Patrol, OFO, and ICE as part of migrant processing at and between ports of entry (POEs). Humanitarian parole can be used at POEs, at the discretion of an officer, for people without travel authorization who present an acute medical or humanitarian need. Additionally, migrants who arrive at a POE…and express fear of returning to their origin country may receive discretionary parole in addition to receiving a notice to appear in immigration court. Those processed with a CBP One [the new app based interview scheduling system] appointment generally receive two years of parole while those without an appointment typically receive one year of parole.

Between POEs, Border Patrol has used the parole authority for faster processing during times of high migrant arrivals when its facilities face overcrowding. Previously, when Border Patrol capacity met or exceeded a certain threshold border-wide, agents were given the authority to grant eligible migrants a 60-day parole.”

News reports on the Senate’s draft Mexican border provisions

The border crossing surge, as I posted yesterday, is overwhelming a case of persons crossing the border at other than an official port of entry.  The great majority of these “illegal,” or “irregular” migrants seek to give themselves up while applying for amnesty.

CNN reported on January 26 (later in the day, confirmed by the Washington Post)  that the Senate is negotiating provisions which will likely drastically cut back on the surge by “shutting down” the border, presumably authorizing Border Patrol to refuse to accept any application for amnesty.  House Republicans who do not, in my opinion, want a resolution to the border crisis under Biden’s watch, will find these provisions threatening.

The CNN report:

Under the soon-to-be-released package, the Department of Homeland Security would be granted new emergency authority to shut down the border if daily average migrant encounters reach 4,000 over a one-week span. If migrant crossings increase above 5,000 per day on a given week, DHS would be required to close the border to all illegal migrants.

Moreover, if crossings exceed 8,500 in a single day, DHS would be required to close the border to migrants illegally crossing the border. Under the proposal, any migrant who tries to cross the border twice while it is closed would be banned from entering the US for one year.

The goal of the trio of negotiators – GOP Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut – is to prevent surges that overwhelm federal authorities. The Biden administration and Senate leaders have been heavily involved in the talks, and more details of the deal are expected to be released in the coming days.

In December alone, there were over 300,000 migrant encounters. The source said if the new legislation were in effect, the border would be shut down now to illegal migrants (Immigrants legally making appointments or legally traveling in and out of the US would still have access to ports of entry.

How many “irregular” crossings at the Mexican border that create the crisis?

Here is concise description of border crossings which constitute the current border crisis. This is important to digest.

There are 25 official ports of entry (POE) on the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Some are used only for vehicles, trains, pipelines or electrical transmission. A few, such as El Paso TX and San Ysidro (CA) are heavily used by people walking across. The great majority of border crossings have been “irregular,” that is, between the POEs.

The Migration Policy Institute, in a January 2024 report on border control writes that in FY 2021 – 2023, 700,000 persons were recorded arriving at POEs, 5.9 million were processed between the POEs, and 1.7 million were estimated to have crossed undetected (‘gotaways”). This is an astounding  and questionable number of undetected persons. The MPI’s source is a Congressional Homeland Security committee. I suspect that the committee relied on old rule of thumb ratios between recognized and surreptitious crossings (such as about 30%). Such an old ratio is likely invalid in years in which massive waves of migrants cross the border with an explicit goal of being apprehended and claim asylum.

The MPI writes:

Of the 6.6 million migrant encounters recorded along the U.S.-Mexico border between FY 2021 and FY 2023, 5.9 million (90 percent) were processed by the U.S. Border Patrol between Ports of Entry (POEs). That is an average of nearly 2 million encounters each fiscal year since FY 2021 with migrants of increasingly different nationalities and characteristics.  The sustained volume and quickly changing composition of border arrivals have posed significant operational and logistical challenges for the Border Patrol and other agencies with a role in processing arriving migrants.

[The great majority—5.9 million – are “give ups.”]

How migrants arrive irregularly between POEs has changed significantly. Migrants who learn they are likely to be processed quickly and released from Border Patrol custody, as is the case with Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians, tend to seek out and surrender to U.S. authorities soon after crossing into U.S. territory. These encounters, commonly referred to by Border Patrol agents as “give-ups,” reflect migrants’ intention to seek asylum once in the United States, often with the misguided perception that they will qualify for protection despite CLP restrictions. Mexicans and Central Americans, who are often aware that they may be detained and removed, are more likely to attempt to evade detection. Since FY 2021, an estimated 1.7 million migrants [i.e. were detected but not encountered by the Border Patrol (also known as“gotaways”).

[Here is what happens quickly to the encountered irregulars:]

The Border Patrol generally has 72 hours to process migrants before transferring custody to other agencies, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service USCIS). Agents attempt to process and transfer custody of unaccompanied children within 24 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).  Processing other vulnerable populations (e.g., families with children or migrants who are sick may take longer. Ultimately, how long migrants spend in Border Patrol detention for processing depends not only on the agency’s internal capacity but also on the capacity of USCIS to conduct credible fear interviews for migrants who express the intent to seek asylum after being placed in removal proceedings and that of ICE to coordinate removal hearings and carry out removals.