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Dems hunt for marginal progress on immigration
As unlawful border crossings spike and states are pushing to the brink to support displaced migrants, congressional Democrats find themselves longing for help from the Biden administration.
Unlawful border crossings spike in July: In the three days after the Biden administration lifted Title 42 — the policy that banned the fundamental right to seek asylum at the US-Mexico border due to the pandemic — the Department of Homeland Security reported a 50-percent decrease in encounters at the southern border.
DHS officials said at the time that it was too early to draw conclusions on if the drop-off would last because the conditions causing migration remained unchanged. As it turns out, the caution was well-placed.
Unlawful border crossings spiked more than 30 percent in July after US agents made more than 30,000 arrests along the Mexican border, according to an analysis of Customs and Border Patrol data by The Washington Post.
The increase was most noticeable in the southern Arizona deserts despite the extreme heat the region has experienced lately with 40,000 unlawful crossings last month, the highest one-month total in the Tucson area in 15 years.
Additionally, 50,000 migrants were permitted to cross into the US in July through Biden administration programs that allow asylum seekers to book appointments at ports of entry with an app. CBP said these programs contributed to numbers last month that fall well below the number of unlawful crossings prior to the end of Title 42.
Dems look for improvements at the margins: The July data comes as congressional Democrats recently have pursued several public and behind-the-scenes actions to improve the immigration system as efforts to pass immigration reform rank low on Congress’s legislative agenda.
Massachusetts Democrats, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking the agency to speed up the processing of documents required for migrants paroled into the US to legally work and financially support themselves. The lawmakers said that since their state is the only one with a right to shelter, local cities and nonprofits are facing significant strain to meet the needs of migrants seeking shelter. They argue approvals would lessen the strain on available humanitarian housing resources.
Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona sent a separate letter to Mayorkas about funding for a program designed to support border communities like those in his state with shelter and other services related to non-citizens migrants released from DHS custody. It’s the second letter he’s sent on the issue. (FWIW, US Citizenship and Immigration Services released new guidance to assist stateless non-citizens with getting immigration benefits or with adjudicating other requests.)
New York Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to USCIS to request expanded support for asylum seekers and refugees so they can access services, including legal support, housing, nutrition, and other wrap-around services.
And before Congress left for August recess, the Democrats from the New York delegation met with Mayorkas and New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the Capitol. The local and state leaders discussed the path forward as the city is overwhelmed with an influx of displaced migrants dropped off by Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis.
Meanwhile, the center-left New Democrat Coalition sent a letter to White House Budget Director Shalanda Young to offer themselves as a partner in getting the funds the administration needs to secure the southern border during the appropriations process.
GOP finger-pointing: Two House Republican subcommittees announced a joint hearing in Arizona next week to explore the situation at the border crisis and blame President Biden for any unlawful crossings while refusing to invest the political capital required to fix a broken system that’s been in disrepair for four decades.
To be clear, the House GOP did pass a bill in May along party lines filled with some of the conference’s most divisive and punitive anti-immigration policies. But like most of the other messaging that bills Speaker Kevin McCarthy has prioritized this Congress, it’s languishing in the Senate and is no serious springboard to broader bipartisan discussions on comprehensive immigration reform.
“We have seen firsthand on past committee trips to the border how illegal border crossing surges, incentivized by the radical policies coming out of this administration, have wreaked havoc on local communities and negatively affected the lives of residents and law enforcement,” House Oversight national security subcommittee chairman Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) and House Judiciary crime subcommittee chair Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said in a joint statement. “Our joint field hearing will be a unique opportunity to see firsthand the devastating impacts of the Biden Administration’s failed policies at the border and explore ways that Congress can assist.”
The public is fed up with both sides: Just one in five Americans say the government is doing a good job of dealing with the increase in people seeking asylum at the border, according to a Pew Research Center survey in June.
And although the issue is likely to be politicized instead of legislated as campaign season ramps up, 47 percent of Americans rate undocumented immigration as a very big problem in the country, up from 38 percent last year.
But fewer Americans say it is very important to make it more difficult for migrants to be granted legal status in the US or to prevent people from seeking asylum in the country.
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Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wis.) announced he won’t challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin in her bid for re-election in the Badger State. The decision leaves national Republicans without a serious candidate to take on the two-term incumbent as they look to retake the Senate majority next year. “Ultra-MAGA Congressman Tom Tiffany cried wolf about running for Senate but ending up passing because he knows his extremist record doesn’t hold a candle to the work Tammy Baldwin has done for Wisconsin,” Arik Wolk, rapid response director of the Wisconsin Democratic Party said in a statement.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sent a letter to the Education Department asking the agency to take steps to protect civil rights after the Supreme Court overturned affirmative action last month. Scott, the top Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, called for comprehensive guidance to schools and higher education institutions on Title VI compliance and other factors in college admissions.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) sent a letter to the head of the federal agency responsible for regulating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac home loans to ask for new protections for multifamily renters. Specifically, Brown and his colleagues urged the Federal Housing Finance Agency to limit egregious rent hikes, require greater upfront transparency of rent and fees, and make sure homes are safe and accessible.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) sent a letter to Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Administration Committee, to request the release of the security footage from the Capitol Rotunda where Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) allegedly berated teenage Senate pages last week. The pages, who help with Senate administrative tasks, were lying on the floor of the Rotunda and taking pictures of the interior of the Capitol dome, a tradition to mark their last week of service before Van Orden’s reported outburst. Prior to his election to Congress, Van Orden attended the “Stop the Steal” rally and was at Capitol during the Jan. 6th insurrection.
RELATED: Former President Donald Trump was indicted again in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election ahead of the Capitol riot. The four counts include a charge of conspiracy to defraud the US. Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, has now been indicted three times. In a joint statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) called the indictment the “most serious and most consequential thus far.”
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies reaffirmed its support of the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion after Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) introduced a bill to eliminate the office. “This legislation undermines the ODI’s progress in advancing diverse hires in U.S. House offices in a bipartisan way to ensure equitable policies and practices for all Americans,” LaShonda Brenson, senior researcher at the Joint Center, a Black think tank, said in a statement. Mooney is a candidate for the Senate seat currently held for West Virginia.
Fitch Ratings Agency, one of the big three credit rating agencies, downgraded the US credit rating from AAA to AA+. The agency, which put the US on negative watch during the debt limit crisis, cited several drivers of the decision: Erosion of governance, rising deficits, projections of a mild recession late this year and early next, plus the Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she strongly disagreed with the decision but that it wouldn’t change the fact that the US government securities remain the preeminent global asset and that the fundamentals of the US economy are strong.
The Tuesday Senate pro forma session was delayed by two and a half hours while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) traveled to the Capitol to preside. Pro formas are quick meetings scheduled to comply with the constitutional prohibition that the House or Senate adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other.
The heads of the FDA and Drug Enforcement Administration published a letter to explain the nationwide shortage of prescription drugs to treat conditions like ADHD, binge eating disorder, and narcolepsy. “We want to make sure those who need stimulant medications have access,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and DEA Administrator Anne Milgram wrote. “However, it is also an appropriate time to take a closer look at how we can best ensure these drugs are being prescribed thoughtfully and responsibly.”
President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden saw Oppenheimer on Tuesday evening as the Trump indictment news played out. The movie date came after dinner at a seafood restaurant and before a beach walk near their Delaware summer home. Biden’s review of the movie: “It was compelling.”
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ON THE FLOOR
The House is out.
The Senate is out.
CAPITOL HILL HAPPENINGS
Not much aside from the quiet sound of recess.
President Biden has no public events on his schedule.
1:50 p.m. Vice President Harris will meet with Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai of Mongolia in her ceremonial office.
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