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Senate Releases $118 Billion Package to Address Southern Border and Aid Ukraine and Israel

The United States Senate has unveiled a $118 billion legislative package, comprising a long-anticipated bipartisan agreement aimed at addressing the persistent migrant crisis at the southern border.

This comprehensive bill also encompasses provisions for providing new aid to Ukraine, Israel, and other key U.S. allies.

Significant Opposition

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As it embarks on its legislative journey, the proposal faces both support and opposition, particularly within the House of Representatives, where Republican leadership has expressed skepticism.

Includes Supplemental Aid Package

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Reports about the agreement have swirled for months, and the release of the bill’s text enables lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to evaluate its contents.

The 370-page bill incorporates the supplemental aid package that President Joe Biden had requested for foreign conflicts, allocating $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, and $10 billion for humanitarian assistance, including support for Gaza.

Senate’s Plan for Consideration

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has outlined his intention to initiate the legislative process for this bill, underscoring that a significant majority of senators are eager to see it advance.

Opposition Form Trump and GOP

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Nonetheless, the agreement has encountered opposition from former President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders, casting uncertainty over its journey through Congress.

House Speaker’s Rejection

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House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has vehemently rejected the bill, characterizing it as “even worse than expected” and cautioning that it would be “dead on arrival” in the House if it were to reach that stage.

Additionally, some Republican senators, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have openly criticized the proposal.

Appeal for Evaluation

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Amid the contentious debate, Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., has urged his fellow lawmakers to undertake a comprehensive review of the bill before rendering final judgments.

He emphasized the importance of a thorough examination of the legislation.

President Biden’s Support

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President Biden has expressed robust support for the proposal, describing it as the “toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also commended the bill, highlighting its inclusion of “direct and immediate solutions” and calling upon the Senate to carefully consider its potential.

Expand Detention Capacity

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The proposal seeks to expand detention capacity to address the influx of migrants.

It introduces stricter asylum qualification criteria but allows migrants with credible fear claims to remain in the country and work.

Bolster Homeland Security Resources

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Furthermore, the bill allocates approximately $20 billion to bolster the Department of Homeland Security’s resources.

These funds will be utilized for processing, housing, transportation of migrants, and combating drug smuggling.

End Catch and Release

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The legislation aims to terminate the practice of “catch and release.”

Instead, migrants will be detained while their asylum claims are evaluated.

Additionally, a voluntary program will be established for migrants to return to their home countries via commercial airlines funded by the U.S. government.

Increase Green Card Eligibility

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The bill also includes provisions to increase the number of green-card-eligible visas annually for the next five years.

Moreover, it ensures that children of H1-B visa holders retain eligibility for green cards once they reach the age of 21.

Additionally, the legislation provides a pathway to citizenship for Afghans who left their country following the Taliban takeover.

Halt Asylum Application Based on Migration Thresholds

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Perhaps the most contentious element of the bill is a three-year policy that would halt the processing of asylum applications if expulsions and apprehensions of migrants reach specific thresholds.

During this shutdown period, migrants caught crossing the border illegally will be immediately deported.

Notably, asylum claims from individuals attempting legal entry at official ports will continue to be processed.

Opposition and Criticism

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The Senate bill encounters opposition not only from House Republicans but also from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

House Republicans argue that President Biden could take steps to curb unauthorized migration without Congress’s involvement.

Hispanic Caucus Deems it Insufficient

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Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus deems the Senate’s package insufficient, believing that it might exacerbate border issues and not provide a long-term solution for immigration reform.

They call for a more comprehensive approach to address the challenges at the southern border.

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