Biden says 'long past time to fix' border after Trump snubs US Senate deal

Former president says Republican Congress members 'better off not making a deal' as negotiations continue

Migrants try to cross the border that divides Mexico from the US, in Ciudad Juarez. EPA
Powered by automated translation

US President Joe Biden on Friday declared "it's long past time to fix" issues over immigration and the border with Mexico, referencing a brewing Senate deal that former president Donald Trump has called on fellow Republicans to reject.

"What’s been negotiated would – if passed into law – be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country," he said.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said on Friday that the Senate deal tying immigration policy to emergency aid for Ukraine would be impossible to pass in the Republican-controlled chamber.

“If rumours of the draft proposal are true,” Mr Johnson wrote in a letter to fellow House Republicans, noting the Senate talks appear stalled, “it would have been dead on arrival in the House, anyway.”

Republicans have insisted that any aid to Ukraine be tied to border policy, which Senate negotiators are working on, Bloomberg reported.

But likely Republican nominee Donald Trump has publicly and privately pressured Republicans to reject anything less than a “perfect” deal, an aggressive stance aimed at scuttling talks and giving him an issue to run on ahead of the November presidential election.

“We need a strong, powerful and essentially 'perfect' border and, unless we get that, we are better off not making a deal, even if that pushes our country to temporarily 'close up' for a while because it will end up closing anyway with the unsustainable invasion that is currently taking place – a death wish for the USA!” he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Mr Trump said in another post that the current Senate plan draft is 'meaningless in terms of border security and closure”.

Mr Biden's statement on Friday evening seemed to directly reference Mr Trump's comments, saying the deal would give "emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed" and that he would use it "the day I sign the bill into law".

"For everyone who is demanding tougher border control, this is the way to do it," he added.

Mr Johnson did not specify what rumoured parts of a Senate plan he objects to, but major sticking points in the talks have included changes to asylum policy and humanitarian aid.

The House Speaker’s letter notes it has been nine months since the Republican-led House passed its own border legislation, which he said contains the “core” legislative reforms that are necessary for President Joe Biden “to resolve the border catastrophe”.

But Democrats in both chambers have widely opposed the House-passed bill, which would narrow asylum eligibility, require more migrants to be locked up in detention facilities and restart border wall construction, among other actions.

Mr Johnson also raised questions about whether Mr Biden would enforce new immigration laws, asserting he will not enforce the laws now on the books.

“He should sign an order right now to end the mass release of illegals and dangerous persons into our country,” he wrote.

Updated: January 26, 2024, 11:25 PM