Latino Democrats in the Senate decry Biden’s concessions in border and Ukraine talks

Dec 15, 2023, 10:07 PM

FILE - Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions co...

FILE - Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions confirmation hearing on April 20, 2023, in Washington. Prominent Latinos in Congress looked on quietly, at first, privately raising concerns with the Biden administration over the direction of border security talks. Padilla was on the phone constantly with administration officials questioning why the Senate negotiations did not include any meaningful consideration of providing pathways to citizenship for long-time undocumented immigrants. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prominent Latinos in Congress looked on quietly, at first, privately raising concerns with the Biden administration over the direction of border security talks.

Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla of California was on the phone constantly with administration officials questioning why the Senate negotiations did not include any meaningful consideration of providing pathways to citizenship for longtime undocumented immigrants.

New Mexico Democrat Sen. Ben Ray Luján made similar arguments as he tried to get meetings with top-level White House officials.

But when the talks didn’t seem to make enough difference, the influential lawmakers started leading the open opposition.

“A return to Trump-era policies is not the fix,” Padilla said. “In fact, it will make the problem worse.”

Padilla even pulled President Joe Biden aside at a fundraiser last weekend in California to warn him “to be careful” of being dragged into “harmful policy.”

The Latino senators have found themselves on shifting ground in the debate over immigration, as the Democratic president, who is reaching for a border deal as part of his $110 billion package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs, has tried to tamp down the historic number of people arriving at the border with Mexico.

The negotiations, which are expected to continue this weekend at the Capitol, come as the Biden administration has increasingly endured criticism over its handling of border and immigration issues — not just from Republicans, but from members of the president’s own party as well. Democratic cities and states across the country have been vocal about the financial toll that they say migrants have been taking on their resources.

But left off the table in the talks are pro-immigration reforms, such as granting permanent legal status to thousands of immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, often referred to as “Dreamers,” based on the DREAM Act that would have provided similar protections for young immigrants but was never approved.

A few days after his conversation with the president, Padilla, Luján and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., aired their concerns prominently at a Congressional Hispanic Caucus press conference in front of the Capitol.

They battered Senate Republicans for demanding the border policy changes in exchange for Ukraine aid, and they criticized Biden for making concessions that they say ultimately undermine the United States’ standing as a country that welcomes immigrants.

Padilla said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has promised him and several other senators to allow them to see proposals before there is a final agreement, but Latino lawmakers have largely been left outside the core negotiating group, even as they consistently proposed progressive fixes to the U.S. immigration system.

Biden is facing pressure from all sides. He has increasingly faced criticism over the historic numbers of migrants and he is also trying to address the political weakness ahead of a potential campaign rematch with Donald Trump, the former Republican president, who has promised to enact far-right immigration measures.

And for Biden, the issue is now tied to a top foreign policy goal: providing robust support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia.

The White House and Senate leaders are pushing for a framework of the border deal by Sunday, according to one person granted anonymity to discuss the situation. But others cautioned it may take longer.

Recently during the negotiations, the White House has pushed to include provisions that would legalize young immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, according to two people with knowledge of the closed-door talks.

Republicans have demanded several asylum restrictions that Democrats have so far resisted, but the protections for so-called “Dreamers” would be one way for Democrats to secure one of their longstanding immigration priorities.

“There’s still disagreements and we continue to work at them,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told reporters after a round of talks Friday.

The bipartisan group negotiating the package has acknowledged that it expects to lose votes from both the left and right wings of either party.

“Regardless of people’s political persuasions, this is a crisis,” said Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent who is part of the core negotiating group. “There is nothing that is humane about having thousands of individuals sitting in the desert without access to restrooms or food or water, no shade, just waiting for days to interact with a Border Patrol agent. That’s what’s happening in southern Arizona.”

But immigration advocates have been rallying opposition to the proposed changes — often comparing them to Trump-era measures.

Using words like “draconian” and “betrayal,” advocates argued during a Friday call with reporters that the proposals would undermine U.S. commitments to accepting people fleeing persecution and do little to stop people from making the long, dangerous journey to the border.

One of the policies under consideration would allow border officials to easily send migrants back to Mexico without letting them seek asylum in America, but advocates argue it could just place them into the hands of dangerous cartels who prey on migrants in northern Mexico.

They also say that when the Trump and Biden administrations previously used the expulsion authority on public health grounds during the pandemic, migrants sent back to Mexico didn’t return home. Instead they tried over and over again to enter the U.S. because there were no repercussions.

Greg Chen, senior director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said it would just make the border region “more chaotic, more dangerous.”

The policies under consideration would also be difficult to implement. Detaining migrants or families would lead to hundreds of thousands of people in custody — at a huge cost — and could force the Department of Homeland Security to divert staff from other duties to the border.

“These are all things that are extremely, extremely worrying,” said Jason Houser, the former chief of staff at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

If the legislation comes to a vote, Padilla and other prominent House Democrats, such as Reps. Nanette Barragán, the chair of the Hispanic Caucus, and Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, will likely lead opposition from the left.

Immigration advocates were also heartened to see support from prominent House members like Rep. Veronica Escobar, who is a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, and Rep. Jerry Nadler, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, at the Hispanic Caucus news conference in front of the Capitol this week.

Padilla warned that Biden’s concessions on border restrictions could have lasting impact on his support from Latino voters.

“To think that concessions are going to be made without benefiting a single Dreamer, a single farm worker, a single undocumented essential worker is unconscionable,” he said.


Associated Press writer Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

United States News

Associated Press

Body parts of 2 people found in Long Island park and police are trying to identify them

BABYLON, N.Y. (AP) — Police on New York’s Long Island were trying to identify human remains found in a popular suburban park that appear to be from a man and a woman. A girl walking to school Thursday morning found a severed arm on the side of the road at Southards Pond Park, about 25 […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Train derailment leaves cars on riverbank or in water; no injuries, hazardous materials reported

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP) — Authorities say a train derailment in eastern Pennsylvania has left some railroad cars along a riverbank Saturday morning and at least one partially in the river itself. Dispatchers in Northampton County said the derailment was reported at 7:14 a.m. in Lower Saucon Township. Authorities said it was unclear how many cars […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

An arrest has been made and charges filed in Pennsylvania slaying of pregnant Amish woman

SPARTANSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania man was arrested Saturday and charged with the slaying of a pregnant Amish woman whose body was found last week. Shawn C. Cranston, 52, of Corry, has been charged with criminal homicide, criminal homicide of an unborn child, burglary and criminal trespass, Pennsylvania State Police said. He was denied […]

3 hours ago

FILE - Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on Feb. 20, 2024, in Las Vegas. ...

Associated Press

How clean is the dirt on Hunter Biden? A key Republican source is charged with lying to the FBI

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alexander Smirnov was cast by Republicans as one of the FBI’s most trusted informants, offering a “highly credible” account of brazen public corruption by Joe Biden that formed a pillar of the House impeachment investigation of the Democratic president. Then, last month, the script changed dramatically. charged with lying to the FBI, […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Powerful storm in California and Nevada shuts interstate and dumps snow on mountains

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A powerful blizzard raged overnight into Saturday in the Sierra Nevada as the biggest storm of the season shut down a long stretch of Interstate-80 in California and gusty winds and heavy rain hit lower elevations, leaving tens of thousands of customers without power. Up to 10 feet (3 meters) of […]

9 hours ago

Musher Dutch Johnson, a kennel manager at The August Foundation for Alaska Racing Dogs, runs a dog ...

Associated Press

Alaska’s Iditarod dogs get neon visibility harnesses after 5 were fatally hit while training

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The Iditarod, the annual sled dog race celebrating Alaska’s official state sport, is set to get underway Saturday with a new focus on safety after five dogs died and eight were injured in collisions with snowmobiles while training on shared, multi-use trails. For the first time, mushers who line up for […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.

Latino Democrats in the Senate decry Biden’s concessions in border and Ukraine talks