President Joe Biden supports the mammoth $118 billion border and foreign aid deal released by the U.S. Senate Sunday night. And despite complaints from some progressives that it’s “a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy,” Delaware Valley Democrats say they’re on board, too.
“Now we’ve reached an agreement on a bipartisan national security deal that includes the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades. I strongly support it,” Biden said in a statement.
The bill, which approves $60 billion in aid for Ukraine and another $14 billion for Israel, is poised for its first vote in the Senate on Wednesday. On immigration, it would raise the standard for claiming asylum, end “catch and release,” and add money for 50,000 detention beds for migrants awaiting review.
It was negotiated by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.)
But in Pennsylvania, attitudes toward the legislation fall along partisan lines.
“The bipartisan bill released last night takes critical steps towards securing our border and stopping fentanyl while providing key assistance to Ukraine and Israel,” said Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) via social media. “It’s time to put politics aside and get this done.”
His likely Republican opponent, Dave McCormick, posted his opposition. “This is not a compromise; it’s a capitulation. This bill does not secure the border — it allows 4,000 migrants to cross illegally every. single. day.”
McCormick was referencing a provision in the legislation that mandates the Department of Homeland Security turn away all would-be migrants at the border if encounters reach a weekly average of 5,000 per day. The bill also grants the president the authority to invoke that measure at 4,000 encounters per day.
Like many of his fellow Republicans, McCormick argues there’s no reason to allow that level of undocumented migration — about 1.4 million per year — before shutting down the border.
“To protect Americans and fight the scourge of fentanyl, we need to CLOSE the border to illegal immigration. I oppose this deal,” McCormick wrote.
Progressive Sen. John Fetterman posted on social media that he had former Republican Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson as a professor.
“Back in 1998, Sen. Simpson said that we’ll never have any meaningful immigration legislation because it will forever be a useful political weapon. Here we are more than a quarter century later. I hope my Senate Republican colleagues don’t prove him right. Let’s PASS THIS BILL.”
The three Democrats in the Delaware Valley federal delegation also support the package.
“Our border and immigration system is dysfunctional and has been under both parties,” Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery/Berks) posted on social media. “It’s time to start talking solutions. So far, House Republicans are unwilling. I pray they change their minds soon — for the sake of our communities and for the sake of those seeking refuge.”
Republican David Winkler, who is running against Dean, said he is “deeply disappointed” in the “lack of seriousness” from Democrats on the border, and he cites the lack of a border wall mandate in the bill.
“We should propose a bill that focuses on strengthening border security by implementing physical security measures, utilizing advanced technology, and increasing staffing.”
Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks) supports the bill. She visited the border last Thursday and Friday. Houlahan also penned a letter asking her colleagues to send more aid to Ukraine.
“I’m calling on Speaker [Mike] Johnson to change his deeply cynical position that “now is not the time” for immigration reform—I couldn’t disagree more. Most people in communities across America couldn’t disagree more. No solution will be perfect, but we cannot let that keep us from making progress for both the American people and those who seek refuge here,” Houlahan said in an op-ed in Newsweek on Monday.
Her request is falling on deaf ears. Speaker Johnson and other key House leaders signed a letter Monday declaring the bill dead on arrival in the House.
“It fails in every policy area needed to secure our border and would actually incentivize more illegal immigration,” they wrote. “The so-called ‘shutdown’ authority in the bill is anything but, riddled with loopholes that grant far too much discretionary authority to Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas – who has proven he will exploit every measure possible, in defiance of the law, to keep the border open.”
Neil Young, the Republican running against Houlahan, said he agrees with Johnson.
“Senate Republicans who voted in favor of this bill should be made to account for their vote and primaried if necessary. The American people do not want a quota system on how many people should be allowed into this country illegally.
“We deserve leaders who will vote to protect our borders from all threats, be they drug, crime, or illegal immigrant-related,” said Young. “In addition, for them to also tie this nonsense to yet another $60 billion foreign aid handout to Ukraine is doubly insulting. Last year’s HB2, which Speaker Johnson passed, was the blueprint for how to handle this, and the Senate still failed to deliver meaningful border security. The American people are smart enough to know that this current administration is responsible for our crisis at the border, and no amount of media spin can change that.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks/Montgomery) did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Ashley Ehasz, the Democrat making her second attempt to unseat him.