Hispanic Caucus: Border bill would ‘set back real comprehensive immigration reform by years’

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is blasting the revival of the bipartisan Senate border deal, opposing both its content and its potential to upend any forward motion to reform the immigration system.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is bringing the legislation back from the dead to prop up vulnerable Democrats, including Sens. Jon Tester (Mont.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Bob Casey (Pa.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), and to build an argument of MAGA obstructionism on border policy and immigration.

But that strategy isn’t swaying immigrant advocates toward the bill, which has always drawn criticism as a one-sided cluster of Democratic concessions.

“The Senate border bill once again fails to meet the moment by putting forth enforcement-only policies and failing to include provisions that will keep families together,” CHC Chair Nanette Díaz Barragán (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement with the group’s leadership team.

“As written, the bill excludes critical protections and legal pathways for families, farm workers and America’s Dreamers who have been in the U.S. contributing to our Nation’s communities and economy for decades.”

The bill was negotiated over months among centrist Democrats, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), and Republican Sen. James Lankford (Okla.).

Its core premise was to find bipartisan common ground on how to tighten border security and limit asylum without getting bogged down in debate over how to improve the immigration system.

That framing drew ire from immigrant advocates who see the idea of tightening asylum laws at best as a potential trade-off for liberalization of the country’s visa system and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and at worst as a building block in expanding an enforcement system that’s hostile to immigrants.

“The bill seeks record-breaking funding for immigration detention — higher levels than seen even during the Trump administration. Private prison companies will reap the benefits, while refugees will be punished with incarceration for the mere act of seeking safety,” wrote representatives of the National Immigrant Justice Center in opposition to Schumer’s re-introduction of the bill.

Democrats who seek comprehensive immigration reform also see the bill as giving away the farm, leaving them with little to offer in trade if comprehensive immigration negotiations ever take place.

“CHC recognizes that our immigration system is broken and that there are challenges at the border that Congress must address. However, if this bill passes, it will set back real comprehensive immigration reform by years,” said Barragán.

Schumer’s resurrection of the deal is unlikely to get the bill much more than a Senate vote, since Republicans in the House, as well as some Senate Democrats and Republicans have already voiced opposition.

The deal initially flopped in February after months of closed-door negotiations that excluded key stakeholders like the CHC, in large part because former President Trump voiced opposition to it, smothering Republican support.

Advocates worry that a second turn at bat could help cement the bill’s initial posturing of bipartisan agreement on an asylum crackdown, and leave immigration reform by the wayside.

“Any bipartisan solution must pair border enforcement with actions to keep families together and, at the very least, include the bipartisan Dream and Promise Act for our dreamers and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act for our farm workers who feed us,” said Barragán.

—Updated at 12:16 p.m. ET

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