From Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect <[email protected]>
Subject Kuttner on TAP: Border Wars
Date February 5, 2024 6:44 PM
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**FEBRUARY 5, 2024**

On the Prospect website

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Political Perils of Democrats' Rose-Colored Glasses

Paul Krugman's (and many Democrats') beliefs about the economy
and crime miss the reality that Americans still experience. BY STANLEY

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Assaults on the Right to Vote

The latest challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 concerns who is
allowed to sue to enforce it. BY RAMENDA CYRUS

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A Make-or-Break Year for a Ukraine in Limbo

Between its stalled counteroffensive and divisions in the U.S. and
Europe, Ukraine is stuck in a doom loop. BY JEN KIRBY

Kuttner on TAP









**Border Wars**

If Democrats hang tough, Republican attempts to sabotage the bipartisan
immigration bill may yet backfire on the far right.

On Sunday, after extensive negotiation, a bipartisan group of senators
with the support of leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, released
the text of a border bill that makes it significantly harder for
migrants to enter the United States. The $118.3 billion bill also
includes $60.1 billion in aid to Ukraine, $14.1 billion for Israel, and
$10 billion in humanitarian assistance to Gaza, the West Bank, and
Ukraine, as well as $20.2 billion for border security.

Trump and Republican House members are determined to deny President
Biden a victory, no matter what the costs to resolving the refugee
crisis, which has been cynically used by Republican governors such as
Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida to flood northern
cities with migrants. The measure has been pronounced dead on arrival in
the Republican-led House and is far from a sure thing in the Senate,
which will seek to take up the bill on Wednesday.

The package makes it far more difficult to claim asylum at the border,
expands detention facilities, and effectively closes the border whenever
more than 5,000 migrants seek entry in the course of a week. It allows
the president to lower that threshold to 4,000, and President Biden says
he will use it. Migrants seeking entry would be rapidly processed. The
system that critics have derided as "catch and release" of releasing
migrants into the U.S. with court dates far into the future would be
drastically curtailed.

The measure is far more restrictive than anything Democrats have
contemplated since the original anti-immigrant law of exactly a century
ago. But the border crisis is real, and so is the political and fiscal
damage in blue states and cities far from the Mexican border.

The bill falls short of more extreme Republican demands to close the
border entirely.

House Republicans have cynically calculated that continuing to let the
crisis fester is far more to their advantage than helping to solve it.
If former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi loses the special election on
February 13 to fill the Long Island House seat vacated by George Santos,
a key reason will be local anxiety over the flood of migrants.

The vote in the Senate, which requires 60 votes, is likely to be close.
Some on the Democratic left have denounced the bill as anti-Hispanic as
well as anti-humanitarian; other progressives reject unconditional aid
to Israel. On the Republican right, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)
preposterously termed the measure "an open border bill."

Assuming the bill does pass the Senate, House Speaker Mike Johnson
(R-LA) has said he will refuse even to call it up for a vote. Depending
on the outcome of the Long Island election, Republicans will have a
majority of either three or four. The only hope for a win in the House
is that a Democrat-led discharge petition could peel off a few
Republican votes.

Regardless of the outcome, Biden needs to get tough in one other
respect. Abbott is using the border issue not just to flood northern
cities with migrants but to re-start the Civil War.

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Despite a clear Supreme Court ruling that the federal government
controls the border, Abbott has sent the Texas National Guard and state
police to enforce his version of immigration policy, and there have been
standoffs between armed Texas forces and outnumbered federal Border
Patrol agents. In his latest ploy, Abbott was joined Sunday by 13
Republican governors

at the border who backed his stance.

Biden needs to federalize the National Guard, add federal agents to the
border, and treat Abbott's move as the insurrection that it is.
Despite Abbott's efforts to revive it, the Civil War is over. His side

The compromise bill is not pretty. Much better comprehensive immigration
reform was nearly enacted a decade ago but was blocked by far-right
Republicans. But the idea that a long-term program of aid to Central
America could solve a short-term crisis always was a fantasy.

Assuming that the bill does pass the Senate but is blocked in the House,
a worsening crisis may eventually backfire on the Republicans. Biden can
now say that he was willing to fix the border and support an ally from
an invasion by Russia, but was cynically blocked by Trump's minions
who wanted an issue in the elections. Running against the do-nothing
Congress worked for Harry Truman.

But there is a long-term cost to this. The bargain always was that
Democrats would trade border security for a path to citizenship for the
11 million or more undocumented immigrants here now. That was the basic
framework of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, a bargain
between the Democrats and Ronald Reagan. Now Democrats have said they
could trade border security for other priorities, like military aid. The
millions of undocumented are the collateral damage.


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