Democrat senator sounds alarm on ‘crisis’ at southern border, urges negotiators to strike a deal

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., lamented the escalating influx of illegal immigrants at the southern border, noting the absence of an agreement on a border framework to be included in the multibillion-dollar national supplemental aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan as senators prepare to recess Wednesday afternoon. 

“What’s happening on the border is a crisis,” Warner said in a telephone press conference Wednesday. “I think we had yesterday over 12,000 people – the highest number ever.”

He added, “We can’t say that Ukraine is a crisis, Israel is a crisis, the border is a crisis, and then not do our job.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection sources on Tuesday, there were more than 12,600 migrants encountered at the southern border in the preceding 24 hours, the highest figure recorded in a single day. 

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Talks have been ongoing with senators and Biden administration officials as Republicans have refused to pass some $60 billion in additional aid to Ukraine unless it is tied to strict border security measures, such as immediate screenings for asylum processing, more detention beds and quicker expulsions for illegal entrants. 

“The bad news is that we didn’t come up with a framework on the border negotiations before the end of the year and the other component parts that would travel along with that legislation,” Warner said. “The good news is and, and this is not just trying to be wishful Christmas thinking, is that the negotiations have finally gotten serious.”

Initially, Republicans insisted on bolstering border security measures in the supplemental package last month, while Democrats remained firm in excluding any immigration policy alterations from advancing in the bill. However, negotiations gained momentum last week after GOP lawmakers blocked the supplemental bill’s progress to a vote.

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“We’re basically going to be dramatically changing not only border policy, but in many ways, immigration laws in this package, and getting agreement and writing it takes some time… it really has to be broadly bipartisan,” Warner said. “We’ve got to get it done. The excuse that we don’t have enough time will disappear.”

The total amount of supplemental aid the White House first requested in October amounts to roughly $106 billion and includes $14 billion to assist Israel. President Biden has been urging Congress to take action on the package, and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelenskyy made a final plea last week to both chambers in private meetings.

The White House has sent more than $100 billion to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February 2022. Last week, Biden announced the administration would send $200 million in additional military aid to the Eastern European nation.

However, Congress failed to reach an agreement this week, even after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., canceled part of the holiday recess so that senators could continue negotiations with Biden administration officials. The negotiations, led by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., are now punted to January. 

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“Our colleagues at the negotiating table are under no illusions about how difficult it is to fix our nation’s broken asylum and parole system,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor Wednesday. “They’re working on what would be the first serious repair in more than 30 years. But there’s no longer any disagreement that the situation at the southern border is unsustainable and requires the Senate to act.”

Schumer called the negotiations “one of the hardest things this Senate has undertaken in a very long time.”

“But make no mistake, the winter recess will be a busy and important few weeks for the U.S. Senate. Negotiations will continue around the clock, reaching an agreement on a critical national security supplemental,” he said.

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