Sometimes, a negotiation produces a deal.
Sometimes, a negotiation reveals the truth.
Negotiators in the Senate have produced a draft agreement on immigration and asylum. The deal delivers on Republican priorities. It includes changes to federal law to discourage asylum seeking. It shuts down asylum processing altogether if too many people arrive at once. Those and other changes send a clear message to would-be immigrants: You’re going to find it a lot harder to enter the United States without authorization. Rethink your plans.
The draft agreement offers little to nothing on major Democratic immigration priorities: no pathway to citizenship for long-term undocumented immigrants, only the slightest increase in legal immigration. The Democrats traded away most of their own policy wish list. In return, they want an end to the mood of crisis at the border, plus emergency defense aid for Ukraine and Israel.
Yet Republicans in the House seem determined to reject the draft agreement. They appear poised to leave in place a status quo that one senior GOP House leader has described as an “invasion” and an “existential and national security threat.”
So if no deal results, what truths will we learn from this process?
The first is that Republicans don’t really care all that much about the situation at the border. A real “existential threat” cannot wait for some later date. People who perceive an existential threat don’t delay. In fact, a good many Republican legislators are very happy to allow a continuing flow of laborers across the border.
Consider that Florida’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work eight-hour days during the school year. Or that the Republican governor of Arkansas has signed a bill that relieves the state of having to certify that teenage workers aged 14 and 15 may work. Or that Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature may soon pass a law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to work as late as 9 p.m. on school nights. Or that Republican legislators in Wisconsin are pushing to allow 14-to-17-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. Consider also that all of these changes are written with teenage migrants very much in mind: Almost 40 percent of recent border-crossers have been under 18, a fivefold increase since the late aughts.
Those teenagers are traveling both alone and in family groups. They are coming to the U.S. to work. When state legislatures relax the rules on employing under-18s and under-16s, they’re flashing a giant WE’RE HIRING sign to job-seeking teenagers around the world. The legislators know that. The teenagers know it. American voters should know it too. [Continue reading…]