Senators are negotiating an agreement to close the border if migrant crossings increase

Senators are negotiating an agreement to close the border if migrant crossings increase

(CNN) — Senate negotiators have agreed to empower the United States to significantly restrict illegal crossings at the southern border, according to sources familiar with the matter, a move aimed at ending a wave of migrants that has overwhelmed federal authorities in recent months.

The Senate agreement, which is expected to be introduced next week, would speed up the asylum process to have cases heard within six months, compared to the current system under which applicants can wait up to 10 years.

The details open a new window into months of high-level negotiations, as Senate leaders remain optimistic that the deal could be linked to aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, while domestic and international crises loom on the horizon. The plan will also put pressure on Republicans to decide whether to greenlight these new powers or reject the plan, as former President Donald Trump urged the GOP to reject anything other than what he calls a “perfection” bill.

President Joe Biden, in a rare statement about the ongoing negotiations in Congress, said that the agreement that negotiators in the Senate were working on is difficult and fair.

“What was negotiated will be, if passed, the toughest and fairest set of border security reforms we have ever undertaken in our country,” he said in a statement on Friday. “It will give me, as President, new emergency authority to close the border when it becomes crowded. If I am granted that authority, I will use it the day I sign the bill.”

Under the package, which will be released soon, the Department of Homeland Security will have new emergency authority to close the border if average daily migrant crossings reach 4,000 people in one week. If the number of crossings exceeds 5,000 people per day in a given week, the Department of Homeland Security would have to close the border to all illegal immigrants. Some people will be allowed to stay if they are proven to be fleeing torture or persecution in their countries.

In addition, if the number of crossing migrants exceeds 8,500 people in one day, DHS would be forced to close the border to people crossing it irregularly. Under the proposal, any immigrant who attempts to cross the border twice while it is closed would be banned from entering the United States for a year.

The goal of the three negotiators — Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut — is to avoid waves that overwhelm federal authorities. The Biden administration and Senate leaders have been closely involved in the talks, and more details of the agreement are expected to be released in the coming days.

In December alone, there were more than 300,000 encounters with migrants. According to the source, if the new legislation goes into effect, the borders will be immediately closed to migrants in an irregular situation (immigrants who legally make an appointment or travel legally within and outside the United States will still be able to access ports of entry).

But the push for a deal comes as Trump has rallied Republicans to reject any immigration compromise while campaigning against President Joe Biden's border management. However, several top Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, say the issue needs to be addressed now as Democrats prepare to pass tougher restrictions.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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