Senate Democrats revive strict border bill in bid for election upper hand

Washington DC - The Senate's Democratic leadership will launch a doomed bid this week to resuscitate a sweeping border bill killed by Republicans as the party of President Joe Biden seeks the upper hand on a key election issue.

The Senate's Democratic leadership will launch a doomed bid this week to resuscitate a sweeping border bill killed by Republicans.
The Senate's Democratic leadership will launch a doomed bid this week to resuscitate a sweeping border bill killed by Republicans.  © KENT NISHIMURA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Polling has repeatedly identified illegal immigration as voters' top concern ahead of November's presidential rematch between Biden and his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, with undocumented crossings from Mexico at historic highs.

In a weekend letter to senators, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would bring the Border Act – hammered over months of negotiations by a Republican, a Democrat, and an independent – back to the floor.

The measure was supported by Democrats facing tough congressional elections but blocked by Republicans in February amid opposition from former president Trump, who is making the border a central campaign issue.

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"Back in January, the former president urged congressional Republicans to kill the bipartisan bill, telling the world proudly to 'blame it on me,'" Schumer said. "The American people do not have the luxury of playing partisan blame games. They want bipartisan action to secure our border."

Republicans see the bill's revival as a political exercise intended to boost Democrats in tight races and deflect from Biden's record on the border, which saw record illegal entries at the end of last year.

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Chuck Schumer is vying to cling to a razor-thin 51-49 majority, with 10 Republicans and 23 Democrats up for reelection in November.
Chuck Schumer is vying to cling to a razor-thin 51-49 majority, with 10 Republicans and 23 Democrats up for reelection in November.  © KENT NISHIMURA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Schumer is vying to cling to a razor-thin 51-49 majority, with 10 Republicans and 23 Democrats up for reelection in November and his five most vulnerable members all in seats where immigration is a top issue.

The bill represents the strictest border crackdown in a generation but will likely fail even to get a simple majority – let alone the 60 votes required for passage.

Schumer acknowledged that not every Democrat will support the legislation, with Hispanic members and a handful of progressives expected to join every Republican in voting no.

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Republican House leaders issued a statement Monday saying the bill would be "dead on arrival" if it ever came to the lower chamber for a rubber stamp.

The House passed a "Secure the Border Act" last year that Republicans say would end the crisis through measures including resumed border wall construction and the reinstatement of a Trump policy requiring asylum seekers to remain in Mexico.

The bill aims to purge the country of undocumented workers through mass surveillance while making it far harder to claim asylum, slashing services to undocumented immigrants, and rolling back many protections for migrant children.

Democrats argue that the sweeping legislation amounts to one of the most draconian immigration bills Congress had ever seen and it has never been introduced in the Senate.

Cover photo: KENT NISHIMURA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

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