Posted on May 14, 2023

House-Passed Border Bill May Spark Bipartisan Immigration Talks

Suzanne Monyak and Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call, May 11, 2023

House Republicans passed a sweeping border security package Thursday that lawmakers in both parties and chambers said could spark bipartisan negotiations on immigration measures.

The House voted 219-213 to pass the bill, which would restart border wall construction, restrict asylum and more. No Democrats supported the bill, and two Republicans also voted against it: Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie and California Rep. John Duarte.

Both had concerns, albeit different ones, about a provision requiring all employers to electronically verify that new hires can work legally in the country. Duarte said he supported the border security policies in the bill but that he would have preferred a bill that could “bring some Democratic support and have a chance in the Senate.”

The Republican bill will not become law given opposition to many provisions from Democrats and a veto threat from President Joe Biden. Democratic lawmakers and human rights organizations have panned the measure as anti-immigrant.

But key senators said it could launch bipartisan, bicameral negotiations, particularly with the planned end Thursday night of the so-called Title 42 policy, a public health order that has allowed border agents to expel asylum-seekers without a hearing for more than three years.

“I’m looking for any port in a storm,” said Senate Judiciary Chair Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who has struggled for years to get any serious immigration negotiations off the ground.

North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, who teamed up last year with Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an independent, to develop a bipartisan immigration framework, said Thursday that the House bill “is a good starting place.”

Tillis said the measure will not advance in the Senate without changes but “it will be absolutely an essential part of a border security strategy that would be in a bill we could get 60 votes for.”

At a press conference after the House vote, Speaker Kevin McCarthy commended Tillis and Sinema for their bipartisan work and said he hopes the Senate passes something so the two chambers can form a conference committee to resolve their differences.

“We once again just passed a bill,” the California Republican said. “The Senate has done nothing.”


Congressional Republicans have made U.S.-Mexico border security a priority amid high migration levels. The House voted hours ahead of the end of the Title 42 policy, which is expected to further increase migration.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., called the bill the “strongest border security package that Congress has ever taken up.”

The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security to resume construction of a border wall that Biden halted and invest more in border security technology and personnel.

It would make it harder for migrants to qualify for asylum, permit migrant children to be detained for months with their parents and crack down on the employment of undocumented immigrants.

The legislation would also limit federal funding to nongovernmental organizations that assist migrants and curb the government’s authority to allow certain migrants to come to the U.S. legally under a form of humanitarian protection known as parole.

Several Democrats said in letters, statements and press conferences this week that they were “ready to work” with Republicans on alternative immigration legislation that doesn’t undermine the asylum system and allows migrants to continue seeking refuge in the United States.

They argue the situation at the border will not improve unless lawmakers create more legal pathways for migration given that deterrence policies deployed under former President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t stop migrants from trying to enter the country.

The moderate New Democrat Coalition’s immigration task force has already been holding meetings “with various stakeholders, including some of our reasonable colleagues across the aisle,” California Rep. Salud Carbajal, a vice chair of the task force, said.

Many House Democrats cited a comprehensive immigration bill Rep. Linda T. Sanchez, D-Calif., reintroduced Wednesday as the type of solution that’s needed, but also acknowledged they may need to accept something smaller.