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Immigration experts alarmed by GOP demands in exchange for military aid

FILE - Airmen with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron use a forklift to move 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine, April 29, 2022, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. When U.S. lawmakers approved a spending bill Saturday, Sept. 30, that averted a widely expected government shutdown, the measure didn’t include the $6 billion in military assistance that Ukraine said it urgently needed. Now the Pentagon, White House and European allies are urging Congress to quickly reconsider. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Alex Brandon/AP
U.S. airmen at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware use a forklift to move 155 mm shells ultimately bound for Ukraine in April 2022. Some immigration experts are warning that efforts by lawmakers to tie immigration policy to military aid could set a dangerous precedent.

The Biden administration and a bipartisan group of Senators have been wrangling over immigration enforcement and a military aid package, most of which would go to Ukraine.

A group of immigration experts, however, have been sounding the alarm saying that the demands made by GOP lawmakers are extreme and could set a dangerous precedent.

“The policy discussion and the contours of this deal do not actually include solutions that will fix the conditions that we found December and the conditions that we've been experiencing for the last decade now,” said Andrea Flores, a former official in the Biden administration and now vice president for immigration policy and campaigns at, a bipartisan group that works on immigration and criminal justice issues.

Flores was one of several immigration experts who gave a press briefing Thursday. They say Republican lawmakers are holding military aid hostage in exchange for significant changes to immigration policy and liken what's on the negotiating table to Trump-era polices.

Humanitarian parole

One of the biggest issues they’re concerned about is an administrative process known as “parole,” which lets administration to allow a group of foreign nationals to apply to come to the U.S. temporarily.

Republicans want to limit Biden’s authority to use this tool. Flores said previous administrations have relied on parole to resettle a population that urgently needed to leave their country.

The most recent examples are the Uniting for Ukraine program and similar programs for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans.

“It is incredibly cynical for Republicans to not only be holding up critical foreign aid to Ukraine, but to be demanding that going forward, no president will again have the freedom to send the foreign policy signal that we can quickly resettle people in desperate need of protection…”

Asylum and expulsions

Flores and others are also worried about talks of severe restrictions to the asylum process, making it easier for migrants to be expelled to Mexico — just like the Trump-era pandemic policy known as Title 42. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Director at the American Immigration Council, said Title 42 was seriously flawed and actually increased border crossings.

“By December 2020, before the Biden administration even took office, border apprehensions were the highest in 20 years,” Reichlin-Melnick said. “Only a few hundred below a peak previously set in December 1999.”

Then just after Biden took office in January 2021, the governor of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas refused to accept the expulsion of migrant families with children. That caused border crossings to spike too.

He said the U.S. can’t continue to implement policies like this and not expect Mexico to place demands on the U.S. in return. We have seen over the last 5 to 10 years that just ramping up immigration enforcement without creating alternate pathways or addressing our broken immigration system is not going to work,” he said.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez.

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Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.