By Nandita Bose, Ted Hesson and Costas Pitas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Friday that the border deal being negotiated in the U.S. Senate was the “toughest and fairest” set of reforms possible and vowed to shut down the border the day he signs the bill.
“What’s been negotiated would – if passed into law – be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country,” Biden said in a statement.
“It would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed. And if given that authority, I would use it the day I sign the bill into law,” he said.
Biden’s comments come after bipartisan U.S. Senate talks on a border security deal that some have set as a condition for further Ukraine aid hit a critical point, lawmakers said on Thursday.
A small group of senators have spent months trying to iron out an agreement to address the flow of migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border.
In these talks, the White House has agreed to the creation of a new migrant expulsion power that would allow migrants who cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to be rapidly returned to Mexico if daily apprehensions surpassed 4,000 per day, two sources familiar with the matter said.
If apprehensions passed 5,000 per day, the use of the expulsion authority would become mandatory, they said.
In December, apprehensions averaged more than 8,000 per day, according to U.S. government statistics released on Friday.
The sweeping authority would be comparable to the COVID-era Title 42 policy put in place under former President Donald Trump during the pandemic and ended under Biden in May 2023.
But the negotiations have recently encountered growing opposition among Republicans aligned with Donald Trump, the frontrunner for their party’s presidential nomination.
Earlier in the day, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson said the Senate border deal is “dead on arrival” in its current form, CNN reported, citing a letter to Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
Republicans aligned with Trump have become more voluble in their skepticism since the former president took to social media to warn against any deal that fails to deliver everything Republicans want to shut down border crossings.
Republicans in the U.S. Congress are blocking emergency funding for Ukraine as lawmakers try to negotiate a deal to tighten security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Biden also urged Congress on Friday to provide the funding he asked for in October to secure the border.
” This includes an additional 1,300 border patrol agents, 375 immigration judges, 1,600 asylum officers, and over 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect and stop fentanyl at our southwest border,” the president said.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose, Ted Hesson, Costas Pitas and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)