HomeGlobal Defence UpdatesHere's what's in the US Senate's $118 billion Ukraine and border deal

Here’s what’s in the US Senate’s $118 billion Ukraine and border deal

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Senate Democrats on Sunday released an $118.3 billion emergency national security bill that would tie a fresh infusion of aid to Ukraine to measures clamping down on migration across the United States-Mexico border.
The fate of measure, which has the backing of President Joe Biden and Senate leaders in both parties, will turn on whether enough Republicans embrace its border security provisions — a long shot given the opposition of former President Donald Trump and House leaders who quickly denounced it Sunday night as a nonstarter that does not crack down enough on migration.

The legislation will need bipartisan support to advance this week in the Senate, where it must draw at least 60 votes to advance in a test vote set for Wednesday.

Here’s a look at what’s in the 370-page bill:

Money for Ukraine, Israel, Palestinians and the border.

The bill includes $60.1 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel, and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians of global crises — including Palestinians and Ukrainians. It also would provide about $20 billion in border investments, including for hiring new asylum and Border Patrol officials, expanding the capacity of detention facilities, and increasing screenings for fentanyl and other illicit drugs. A border fail-safe.

One of the most significant changes to border policy would be the creation of a trigger that would effectively close the border to migrants trying to cross into the United States without authorization. The trigger would be tripped if the average number of migrants encountered by border officials exceeded 5,000 over the course of a week or 8,500 on any given day. Encounters would have to fall to a daily average of 75% of those thresholds — again over the course of a week — for affected intake processes to start up again.

The bill also would give the president power to close the border if migrant encounters reach an average of 4,000 per day over a week.

Many Republicans have argued that those thresholds are too high, and opponents of the deal are using the trigger thresholds to condemn the measure as too weak.

“Here’s what the people pushing this ‘deal’ aren’t telling you,” Rep Steve Scalise, R-La., the No. 2 Republican, said in a social media post in which he vowed never to schedule action on it. “It accepts 5,000 illegal immigrants a day.”

No caps on parole and help for Afghan refugees.

Republicans sought to place limits on the president’s power to parole migrants into the country, allowing them to live and work on a temporary basis. Democrats resisted such changes, and they are not included in the legislation, which would keep intact programs that have been used to let Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Haitians, Ukrainians and Afghans into the United States.

It also includes a version of the Afghan Adjustment Act, a measure to create a pathway to citizenship for Afghans who fled the Taliban takeover and have been living in legal limbo since.

Clamping down on asylum.

The bill would make it more difficult for migrants to claim asylum, and would remove the courts from the appeals process, putting such decisions in the hands of an internal review board. It would raise the bar for migrants who say they have a “credible fear” of persecution if returned to their home countries. It also requires them to show they could not have simply moved to a different part of their home countries to evade that threat. Migrants who can demonstrate a credible fear are let into the country to live and work until their cases are decided, and asylum officers can grant asylum on the spot to those demonstrating a dire need for protection.

The bill gives migrants put into expedited removal proceedings 72 hours to avail themselves of the right to retain counsel, and it guarantees unaccompanied children aged 13 or younger representation by a government-funded lawyer.

More visas and pathways to citizenship.

Although the border deal is not comprehensive immigration reform, there are a few provisions in it that are designed to alleviate immigration backlogs by awarding visas that could put certain migrants on a pathway to citizenship. The bill would create 250,000 green card-eligible family and employment-based visas that would be parceled out over five years.

The bill also would ensure that the children of immigrants who came to the United States on H-1B visas — which go to highly skilled foreign workers — would not be rendered ineligible for green cards when they become adults.

Unfettered aid to Israel and a bar on UNRWA funding.

The bill contains no restrictions on aid to Israel, despite the efforts of Democrats who have sought to ensure that any weapons paid for by the United States be used in keeping with international law. It includes a prohibition against distributing funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, to which the United States froze assistance after Israel accused a dozen of its employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

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