Biden Open to Asylum Changes to Clinch Ukraine, Border Deal

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden said he is open to “massive changes” in US border policy, including to asylum laws, in order to secure a deal that would unlock Ukraine aid.

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Biden’s comments mark the most detailed offer he has made publicly regarding negotiations to break a months-long standoff over the border and foreign aid. Congressional Republicans have demanded a crackdown on migration in exchange for supporting a $110 billion package that includes funds for Ukraine and Israel.

“I’m ready to act,” Biden said Friday at the White House. “The question is for the speaker and House Republicans: are they ready to act as well?”

The president said he would support an agreement that included “significant policy changes at the border, including changes in our asylum system to ensure that we have authorities we need to control the border.”

Biden expressed confidence the Senate could “work out” an emerging bipartisan border compromise as soon as next week. Yet even if that measure passes the upper chamber, it faces a rougher time in the House, where hardline Republicans have demanded even stricter border policies.

Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP presidential race, moved to stifle momentum behind the Senate deal, posting on his social media site that fellow Republicans should reject any pact “unless we get EVERYTHING needed to shut down the INVASION.” That could give GOP leaders less room to maneuver. Trump has been in touch with House Speaker Mike Johnson about the border talks.

Read More: Trump Moves to Quash Hopes of Congress Ukraine, Border Deal

“They have to choose whether they want to solve a problem or keep weaponizing an issue to score political points against the president,” Biden said of Republicans.

The president spoke two days after convening a meeting with top lawmakers, including Johnson, to discuss assistance for Ukraine and the border. Participants struck a positive tone afterward, but there were few signs of concrete progress toward ironing out disagreements between House Republicans and the administration.

Ultraconservative Republicans have demanded even further changes, including limiting the president’s power to shield certain migrants from deportation, that could be unacceptable to the White House. Johnson is facing intense pressure from his right flank, some of whom have threatened to oust him if he makes a deal with Biden.

Changing laws in order to make it harder for migrants to claim asylum in the US could rile progressives and Latinos that Biden needs in order to win the November election. Yet the migration crisis at the border has become one of the president’s biggest political liabilities, polls show, compelling him to seek a border deal with Congress.

Biden spoke Friday to a gathering of US mayors, many of whom represent Democrat-run cities that have seen a major influx of migrants sent from border states likes Texas. Mayors, including New York’s Eric Adams, have urged the White House to provide more federal assistance to shelter, feed and clothe the new arrivals.

Asked by reporters after his remarks if he believed the border is secure, Biden said, “No, it’s not.”

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