Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Democratic governors ask Congress for immigration aid to reverse years of ‘inaction’

WASHINGTON — Nine Democratic governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden and congressional leaders Monday, requesting federal aid and urging changes to immigration law as their states take in an overwhelming number of asylum seekers.

“The sustained arrival of individuals seeking asylum and requiring shelter and assistance, due to lack of Congressional action on infrastructure and policies, can only be addressed with federal organizational support and funding to meet the public safety and humanitarian needs of our local communities,” the letter led by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul read.

The letter was also signed by Govs. Katie Hobbs of Arizona, Gavin Newsom of California, Jared Polis of Colorado, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Wes Moore of Maryland, Maura Healey of Massachusetts, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Phil Murphy of New Jersey. It was first reported by the New York Times.

New York City has taken in 168,000 migrants in the past 18 months, according to Mayor Eric Adams. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has added to the strain in major Democratic-run cities by placing migrants on buses and planes to such cities, often without warning local officials.

“While the Biden Administration has made important progress in managing immigration at the Southwest border, the number of migrants arriving in states and cities seeking emergency shelter continues to increase at record pace,” according to the letter. “States and cities have spent billions to address inaction by Congress and match these challenges with solutions for our state and local economies.”

A bipartisan trio of Senate negotiators — Sens. James Lankford, Republican of Oklahoma, Kyrsten Sinema, independent of Arizona, and Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut — are hammering out the final details of changes to immigration policy as part of negotiations for a global security aid package of more than $100 billion. Some Republican senators had demanded immigration policy changes to be applied to the Southern border as a condition of considering Biden’s request for overseas aid.

The governors asked that Congress grant Biden’s request to include in a supplemental funding bill $4.4 billion for a federal migration strategy and $1.4 billion in aid to states and local governments dealing with an influx of migrants.

The governors are requesting Congress and the White House include “federal coordination and decompression at the southern and northern borders; federal funding for both border and interior states and cities receiving new arrivals; and a serious commitment to modernizing our immigration system in the United States.”

Of the $100 billion in supplemental funding, about $14 billion would go toward U.S. border security, and the rest would be for aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. Senators have not released bill text on the immigration policy, but the proposals they are considering would mark the most significant change to immigration law in the last 30 years.

Proposals being floated include making changes to asylum law that would set a higher bar for migrants to claim asylum and curbing the White House’s use of its parole authority that it has used to grant temporary protections to migrants from certain countries and others at the U.S. southern border.

“With ongoing conflicts around the world, global migration is at a historic high,” according to the letter. “States and cities cannot indefinitely respond to the subsequent strain on state and local resources without Congressional action.”

The letter comes after Biden said in a speech to more than 300 bipartisan mayors at a conference in Washington, D.C., that he is supportive of “significant policy changes” to asylum law – a stark reversal from his administration’s earlier position to protect asylum law.

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