Republicans push border wall bill and new restrictions on immigration as Title 42 expires

Congressional Republicans are pushing a bill this week to build more border walls and impose tougher rules on asylum seekers as the expiration of a pandemic-era restriction looms.

The hard-line GOP plan, which would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate, would also cut a program that allows some migrants a chance to stay in the U.S., including Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland.

Republicans want to take advantage of nervousness about a surge in undocumented immigration that both parties and the White House agree is likely coming when Title 42 officially ends Thursday.

“Joe Biden sent a message that America’s border is open, and millions of people answered that call and started coming across our border illegally,” said Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the House. “We’re going to show the president how to solve the problem.”

But Democrats scoffed at the measure, saying it would do nothing to solve the nation’s broken immigration system.

“This bill would make things worse, not better,” the White House said Monday along with a renewed veto threat. “[It] does very little to actually increase border security while doing a great deal to trample on the nation’s core values and international obligations.”

The House hopes to hold a vote on the Secure the Border Act on Thursday, the same day as the expiration of Title 42, a COVID-19 emergency measure that allowed officials to quickly expel many asylum seekers.

The 213-page bill resurrects a slew of former President Donald Trump’s policies, such as building barriers along hundreds of miles of the southern border with Mexico.

It faces strong headwinds from some Republicans representing agricultural areas over requirements that businesses verify employees’ legal immigration status, a measure that would exacerbate severe labor shortages.

The Biden administration has adopted some policy shifts beginning this week that pair stricter enforcement at the border with a growing avenue for migrants to apply for asylum, as long as they come legally, have a sponsor and pass background checks.

The decisions are an effort to persuade immigrants to skip the dangerous journey north and to apply for asylum through a new app, or at regional hubs opening in Guatemala and Colombia.

Congress in past decades has traditionally tackled immigration reform by coupling stronger border enforcement measures with policy changes that expanded legal pathways or provided legal status for undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.

But Republicans decry efforts to provide pathways to citizenship as “amnesty” for lawbreakers, while Democrats say GOP supporters simply don’t want more immigrants coming to America even as the nation grapples with a widespread shortage of workers.