President Biden Combines Border Security Funding with Aid Packages for Israel and Ukraine

by Chloe Baker
Biden spending package

President Joe Biden is employing a strategic approach to garner bipartisan support for increased financial aid to Ukraine by incorporating billions of dollars for U.S.-Mexico border security. This tactic emerged following the exclusion of Ukraine aid from an interim budget measure, due in part to mounting Republican opposition to funding the ongoing conflict.

Significant developments have occurred since the end of September: the Speaker of the House has vacated their position, leaving Republicans in a state of disorganization over the selection of a successor. Additionally, an attack on Israel by Hamas on October 7 has resulted in a more substantial funding request from the White House.

It remains uncertain whether the inclusion of approximately $14 billion for border security, as a component of the $106 billion spending package sent to Congress last Friday, will mollify opposition.

Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, articulated that the underlying issue at the border is not financial but policy-oriented. “The question of border security is primarily a matter of policy rather than funding. The need of the hour is policy discussion at the White House,” he stated.

Persisting Challenges at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Though the Middle East conflict has temporarily diverted attention from the border, the immigration issues that the United States faces are increasingly complex and problematic. Local and state Democratic leaders are urgently requesting federal aid to alleviate the abysmal living conditions of migrants. Concurrently, Republican leaders vociferously criticize Biden’s border policies for being insufficiently stringent. Meanwhile, Congress has yet to enact comprehensive immigration reforms.

Illegal border crossings have seen a 21% increase, totaling 218,763 last month. While President Biden continually emphasizes the need for Congressional action to update outdated immigration laws, his administration has meanwhile implemented policies aimed at deterring perilous migration and establishing new avenues for legal immigration.

Details of the Funding Request

The proposal by the White House seeks to manage not just border crossings but also the escalating numbers of migrants already within the U.S., awaiting adjudication of their cases. Included in the funding request is $1.6 billion for 1,600 new asylum officers and processing staff, potentially doubling the workforce focused on asylum cases. The package also proposes $1.4 billion for 375 new immigration judges and accompanying teams, in addition to funding for 1,300 new border patrol agents. A further $4.4 billion is designated for Homeland Security initiatives, encompassing increased funding for detention facilities as the administration aims to expedite deportation of individuals ineligible for asylum.

Colleen Putzel, an associate policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, noted, “This constitutes a genuine effort to address the existing backlog.”

Moreover, $1.3 billion has been earmarked for regional migration centers outside the United States. This initiative, orchestrated by the Biden administration, aims to dissuade potential migrants from embarking on the perilous journey through the Darien Gap between South and Central America by providing an alternative means to seek asylum.

State Responses and Political Divides

However, the sum of money allocated seems insufficient for cities like New York, which alone expects to spend over $5 billion by the end of the fiscal year on managing migrant issues. Local and state Democratic officials have been vocal in their calls for more financial assistance.

Republican opposition remains steadfast, particularly regarding the allocation of funds to individuals already in the country. A consortium of Republican senators convened last Thursday to discuss alternative proposals they could endorse. While some expressed conditional support for the aid to Israel and Ukraine if accompanied by robust border security measures, consensus remains elusive.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, cautioned against conflating policy overhaul with budgetary concerns. “Attempting to resolve our long-standing disagreements on immigration through a supplemental funding bill seems like a recipe for failure,” he noted.

For his part, Representative Crenshaw acknowledged agreement with the three main objectives of the White House proposal: aid to Ukraine, Israel, and border security. However, he emphasized, “The crux of the matter will lie in the specifics. Addressing the border crisis is predominantly a policy issue, which includes, but is not limited to, essential reforms in the asylum process.”

Contributions to this report were made by Big Big News writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking in Washington, Claire Savage in Chicago, Mike Casey in Boston, Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, Lisa Rathke in Montpelier, Vt., and Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Biden spending package

What is President Biden’s strategy for securing bipartisan support for aid to Ukraine and Israel?

President Biden is attempting to win bipartisan backing by including $14 billion for U.S.-Mexico border security as part of a $106 billion spending package. The inclusion of border security funding aims to appeal to Republican members of Congress, some of whom have expressed resistance to foreign aid without addressing domestic concerns.

What was the context for this new strategy?

The strategy emerged after aid for Ukraine was removed from a temporary budget measure due to growing Republican opposition. Additionally, an attack on Israel by Hamas prompted a more substantial funding request from the White House. This led to the combined proposal that includes both foreign aid and border security funding.

How has Rep. Dan Crenshaw responded to the proposed funding for border security?

Representative Dan Crenshaw, a Texas Republican, stated that border security is more a matter of policy than funding. He suggests that effective solutions require discussions focused on policy, and not merely increased financial allocations.

What challenges are currently facing the U.S.-Mexico border?

The U.S. is experiencing an increasingly complex migration crisis. Illegal border crossings have surged by 21%, and state and local Democratic leaders are calling for federal aid to manage worsening living conditions for migrants. Republicans, on the other hand, are critical of the Biden administration’s policies for being too lax.

What are the specifics of the White House’s funding proposal?

The White House proposal includes $1.6 billion for hiring 1,600 new asylum officers and processing staff, $1.4 billion for 375 new immigration judges and their teams, and additional funding for 1,300 new border patrol agents. There is also $4.4 billion designated for Homeland Security initiatives, including increased funding for holding facilities.

What has been the reaction from state and local governments?

State and local Democratic officials, particularly from New York City, have indicated that the proposed funding is insufficient to meet the escalating costs of managing migrant issues. Republican senators have also convened to discuss alternative proposals that they could endorse, emphasizing that policy changes are needed alongside funding.

Is there a consensus in sight on the issue?

Consensus remains elusive. Some Republicans have conditionally expressed support for the aid to Israel and Ukraine, provided it comes with robust border security measures. However, Democrats are cautious about conflating policy overhaul with budgetary issues, leaving the outcome uncertain.

More about Biden spending package

  • Biden Administration’s Spending Proposal
  • Republican Opposition to Foreign Aid
  • Recent Developments on U.S.-Mexico Border
  • Hamas Attack on Israel
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s Statements on Border Policy
  • Federal and State Response to Migration Crisis
  • U.S. Immigration Law and Policy

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Terry Chen October 22, 2023 - 10:30 am

A spending package without bipartisan support is doomed from the start. And mixing too many concerns in one package could be its downfall.

John Smith October 22, 2023 - 4:15 pm

This is a tough spot for Biden, trying to please everyone. But honestly, mixing border security with foreign aid? That’s like mixing oil and water, just doesn’t seem to go together.

Emily Davis October 22, 2023 - 7:27 pm

So the border’s now a bargaining chip for international aid? This feels like a political maneuver more than a strategic plan to actually solve problems.

Sara L. October 22, 2023 - 8:14 pm

Can’t help but think this is more about politics than solving real issues. GOP and Dems need to put aside their differences and do what’s best for the country.

Mike O'Connell October 22, 2023 - 9:09 pm

As Crenshaw said, the border issue is about policy, not just money. Throwing funds at it ain’t gonna solve the root problem.


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