California Sen. Padilla splits with Biden on proposed immigration, foreign aid package

ARCHIVO - El senador demócrata Alex Padilla habla en una audiencia en el Congreso, en Washington, el 20 de abril de 2023. (AP Foto/Alex Brandon, File)
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), shown during a committee meeting last year, says border state Democrats weren't part of negotiating the immigration bill, which he says makes extreme changes to the asylum process. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
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California Sen. Alex Padilla said the bipartisan $118-billion border and foreign aid bill supported by President Biden "misses the mark," putting the Democratic senator in the unusual position of opposing a priority of the Democratic president as he campaigns for reelection.

"It is critical that we support our allies in their fight to defend democracy and provide humanitarian relief, but not at the expense of dismantling our asylum system while ultimately failing to alleviate the challenges at our border,” Padilla said in a statement Sunday.

The bill, which amounts to a wish list of GOP immigration priorities, has been negotiated by Democrats and Republicans over several months and is one of the most conservative packages to receive the backing of a Democratic president in decades. Biden said Sunday that he would sign it if Congress passes it.

Immigration and control of the border have taken center stage politically as asylum seekers arrive in the United States in record numbers. Even Biden's Democratic Party state-level allies have pleaded with him to act.

By agreeing to support such a conservative-leaning bill, Biden may be hoping he can partially neutralize the border as a political issue. Former President Trump has been using the crisis against Biden in their expected 2024 rematch.

The politics at play in the immigration debate may thwart the bipartisan deal as it faces opposition from both the right and the left. The legislation does not address citizenship for the millions of people in the country illegally, including farmworkers and people brought to the country as children, often called "Dreamers."

Read more: Kamala Harris was tapped to fix the immigration crisis. Then the problem shifted

It raises the threshold for asylum seekers, curbs presidential authority to parole people who have entered from countries facing war or persecution, and implements a new expedited removal process.

It also mandates shutdown of the border when arrests reach 5,000 daily. When that happens, anyone caught trying to enter the country would be immediately expelled without an asylum screening. Asylum claims could still be presented at ports of entry.

Padilla, who campaigned in 2022 on his desire to reform the immigration system, personally warned Biden in mid-December not to fold to the GOP on immigration in order to get the one-time aid to Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

"The deal includes a new version of a failed Trump-era immigration policy that will cause more chaos at the border, not less. It is in conflict with our international treaties and obligations to provide people with the opportunity to seek asylum. It fails to address the root causes of migration. And it fails to provide relief for Dreamers, farmworkers, and the other undocumented long-term residents of our country who contribute billions to our economy, work in essential jobs, and make America stronger," he said in the statement.

Padilla, the son of Mexican immigrants whose story of achieving the American dream has been central to his political rise, joins other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who say they weren't given a chance to weigh in on the deal.

"They are trying to enact sweeping legislation without the buy-in of the most important stakeholders: immigrant communities and those who represent them. Could you imagine a voting rights deal coming together without start-to-finish input from the Congressional Black Caucus? Unimaginable!" Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement.

Read more: What's in the bipartisan Senate package to aid Ukraine, secure U.S. border

California Sen. Laphonza Butler, also a Democrat, has not publicly commented on the proposed legislation.

The Senate is expected to hold an initial vote on the bill Wednesday to get a sense of whether the legislation has a chance of meeting the 60-vote threshold for passage. Though backed by Republican Senate leaders, several GOP senators are already saying it doesn't go far enough to get their support.

House Republican leaders are similarly lining up behind Trump's opposition to the bill. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Monday that the bill is "dead on arrival" if it reaches the House.

In a Truth Social post Sunday, Trump urged Republicans not to support the bill.

"This Bill is a great gift to Democrats, and a Death Wish for The Republican Party," he said in the post.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.