New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

Bipartisan Immigration Bill: What Does It Say?

Author: Alena Shautsova

Bipartisan Immigration Bill

The bipartisan border bill may come our new Immigration reality any minute. If it does, it will alter the Immigration landscape.

The $118 billion deal, which was reached after months of negotiations, would send billions of dollars to Taiwan, Israel, Ukraine, and the southern border in addition to tightening the requirements for migrants to be granted asylum and automatically closing the border to illegal crossings if daily thresholds for migrant encounters are met. President Joe Biden commended the deal and urged Congress to forward it to him. "If you believe, as I do, that we must secure the border now, doing nothing is not an option,” Biden stated. While President Joe Biden describes it as the "toughest and fairest" in decades, progressives criticize it as a return to the Trump era.

A meticulously crafted 370-page border bill faces an uphill battle, despite President Biden's staunch support. Republican leaders in the House have sworn off the package, deeming it inadequate for curbing the surge in migration despite its hefty price tag. They echo the concerns of conservative senators who find the bill riddled with loopholes, questioning its effectiveness in securing the southern border. Adding to the opposition, progressives across both chambers express dismay, viewing the legislation as a capitulation to Trump-era policies and an unjust restriction on the asylum system meant to safeguard vulnerable immigrants.

Undeterred, Biden champions the deal, hailing it as the critical path to a more "orderly, secure, fair, and humane" US-Mexico border. He proposes significantly more funding than his initial request, driven by the record-breaking influx of nearly 250,000 migrants apprehended in December alone.

Here is the summary of the bill's main contents while representatives of the two parties argue over its details:

1. Detention

The emergency money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be about $8 billion, exceeding the agency's normal yearly budget of approximately $9 billion. More than $3 billion would be included in the emergency financing for expanded incarceration capacity.

2. Asylum

The ACLU and the National Immigrant Justice Center oppose the proposed immigration plan, which aims to expedite asylum case reviews by limiting the time to consider cases to 6 months. The plan would empower asylum officers to make final decisions on more cases, with funding of nearly $4 billion to hire over 4,300 additional officers. However, asylum seekers would face stricter evidentiary standards to qualify for refuge, and the Department of Health and Human Services would receive $350 million to supply lawyers for unaccompanied minors under 14 during their removal cases. The ACLU argues that these changes would "eviscerate" long-established protections for asylum seekers, while the National Immigrant Justice Center argues that asylum would become largely unobtainable for those permitted to request it at ports of entry.

3. Border Shutdown

The measure would compel the Department of Homeland Security to close the border if the average number of unlawful crossings each day surpassed 5,000, or if 8,500 crossings occurred in a single day. Minors traveling alone who are not from Mexico or Canada would not be included in that total.

Only when the number of instances of unlawful crossings falls to 75% of what initially prompted the closure will the government be able to restore the border.

Additionally, if border crossings total more than 4,000 a day for a week, DHS would have the right to close the border, and Biden has indicated he would vigorously exercise that power. A "border shutdown" would result in the swift deportation of many individuals attempting to enter the United States from Mexico. However, there would be an exemption for minors traveling alone and those who fulfill the conditions outlined in the United Nations Convention Against Torture.

4. Ports of Entry

During those periods of "border shutdown," DHS would still take asylum petitions from anyone entering the country legally, but not from those crossing in between those ports. Under those conditions, officials would have to handle at least 1,400 asylum claims per day.

5. Local Support

The allocation of $1.4 billion would support state and municipal governments in managing the immigration crisis. Earlier this month, Governor Kathy Hochul of New York suggested allocating $2.4 billion of her yearly budget to support immigrant programs.

6. Border Wall

The law would compel the Biden administration to spend funds allocated for border barriers—the type of steel fence about which Trump once boasted—on border barriers. The border wall in the "bollard" design is intended to be between 18 and 30 feet high and equipped with "anti-dig" and "anti-climb" elements.

7. Afghan Nationals

Afghans who obtained special immigrant visas and fled their country will be granted permanent citizenship once US forces leave Afghanistan in 2021. Additionally, it would let Afghans who are seen as allies of the United States to be recognized as refugees, deserving of extra protection from the State Department or prompt expulsion from Afghanistan.

Afghans who are the direct relatives of a member of the armed forces or a veteran would also be eligible for special immigration status. A maximum of 10,000 special immigrant visas might be granted annually, or up to 2,500 each year.

8. Visas

Over the course of five years, the agreement would open up 250,000 additional visas for those looking to join family members or work in the United States. It would allow wives and children of H-1B visa holders to work in specialized fields like tech and engineering, which frequently need a bachelor's degree.

If an immigrant has a spouse or fiancé who is a citizen of the United States, or if their parent is a citizen of the United States, they too may work while awaiting their visa.

9. Countering Fentanyl

The Fend Off Fentanyl Act, a piece of legislation designed to strengthen anti-money laundering laws and penalties, is included in the border security agreement.

More than $23 million would be given to the Drug Enforcement Administration to dismantle and disrupt Mexican gangs that are smuggling fentanyl across the southern border. Additionally, programs targeted at reducing the drug's supply into the United States would get around $25 million from the State Department and USAID.

10. ‘Documented Dreamers’

Proponents and a few Democrats swiftly denounced the absence of relief or citizenship paths for illegal immigrants, or "Dreamers," who entered the country as minors. Additionally, there isn't a new route to citizenship for long-term residents who have important employment, like agricultural laborers.

However, the measure does seek to give "Documented Dreamers," or youngsters who traveled with their parents on a work visa who may no longer be eligible for a green card when they turn 21, a route to citizenship.

11. Work Permits

It is worth noting that, in certain circumstances, individuals who apply for asylum may be eligible to work in the U.S. while awaiting their asylum hearing. This provision serves as a valuable means of support for asylum seekers and their dependents during a period of uncertainty and transition.

12. Border Patrol

The emergency funds for Customs and Border Protection would amount to around $7 billion, a significant increase above the agency's regular yearly budget of roughly $21 billion. $723 million of that additional cash would go towards paying overtime and increasing the number of Border Patrol personnel hired.

In addition, the measure would establish yearly training standards for non-lethal forces, safeguard due process, and uphold civil and human rights, while also giving DHS greater latitude in recruiting Border Patrol personnel.


In summary, the bipartisan border security agreement proposed by President Joe Biden represents a significant and complex compromise, aiming to address various aspects of immigration and border control. With $118 billion in funding, the bill includes provisions for detention, asylum, border shutdown, support for local governments, the border wall, Afghan nationals, visas, countering fentanyl, relief for Documented Dreamers, work permits, and Border Patrol funding. However, the agreement has sparked debates and criticism from both progressives and conservatives, underscoring the political challenges ahead. As the bill faces a critical first vote and intense scrutiny, its long-term impact on immigration and border policies remains uncertain, leaving the reader to contemplate the delicate balance between security, compassion, and efficacy in managing the U.S.-Mexico border.

The test of the proposal is available here.

17 February 2024
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