Senate border security talks grind on as Trump invokes Nazi-era 'blood' rhetoric against immigrants

WASHINGTON — White House and Senate negotiators worked hard Sunday to reach a U.S. border security deal that would unlock President Joe Biden's request for billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and other national security needs before senators leave town for the holiday recess.

The Biden administration, which is becoming increasingly involved in the talks, is facing pressure from all sides over a deal. Negotiators had hoped to reach a framework by the weekend, but that is highly unlikely. Republican leaders indicated that without a bill, an upcoming proceeding would likely fail.

The talks come as Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate in 2024, made alarming anti-immigrant comments this weekend about the purity of “blood,” echoing World War II Nazi slogans and cheers at a political rally.

“They are poisoning the blood of our country,” Trump said of the record number of immigrants coming to the US without immediate legal status.

Speaking in early voting state New Hampshire, Trump drew on words similar to Adolf Hitler's “Mein Kempf” as the former US president berated Biden's team over the flow of migrants. “They are pouring into our country all over the world,” Trump said.

Throughout the weekend, senators and top Biden administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, worked intensively behind closed doors in the Capitol to finalize a border deal that Republicans in Congress are demanding in exchange for any aid for Ukraine, Israel and other countries. national security needs. Mayorkas arrived late Sunday afternoon for more talks.

“One step at a time,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., as he and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Arizona independent, joined the conversation.

Senators have insisted they are making progress as they limit their proposals to restrict migrant access to the U.S.-Mexico border, but other influential lawmakers doubt whether a deal can be approved by Congress before the end of the year .

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said senators don't want to be “hampered” by a last-minute compromise reached by negotiators.

“We are nowhere near a deal,” Graham, whose staff has joined the talks, said Sunday on NBC's “Meet the Press.”

Graham predicted the deliberations will take place next year. He was one of 15 Republican senators who wrote to Republican leadership urging them to wait until the House of Representatives returns on January 8 to discuss the issue.

Top GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also indicated in their own letter on Sunday that talks still had a long way to go, and that this week's planned procedural vote would probably fail.

The Biden administration faces an increasingly difficult political situation as global migration experiences a historic surge and many migrants flee persecution or war-torn countries head to the United States, with smugglers taking advantage of the situation.

The president is being berated daily by Republicans, led by Trump, as border crossings have risen to levels that are worrying even some within Biden's own Democratic Party.

But the Biden administration, which is considering a revival of Trump-like policies, is drawing outrage from Democrats and immigrant advocates who say the ideas would undermine the U.S. asylum system and raise fears of deportations of immigrants already in the U.S. live.

The White House's inability to fully engage Latino lawmakers in the talks until recently, or to secure a seat at the negotiating table, has led to a near rebellion by the leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“It is unacceptable,” Rep. Nanette Barragan, D-Calif., chair of the Hispanic Caucus, said on social media. “We represent border districts & immigrant communities that will be severely affected by extreme changes in border policy.”

Progressives in Congress are also warning the Biden administration against any harsh policies that would deny immigrants legal entry into the country. “No backroom deal on the border will be passed without the involvement of the House of Representatives, the House Hispanic Caucus and Latino senators,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., said on Fox News.

White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients joined Mayorkas to hear from leading Latino lawmakers during a conference call with the Hispanic Caucus on Saturday afternoon.

Senators and the White House appear focused on ways to limit the number of migrants eligible for asylum at the border, mainly by tightening eligibility requirements for their cases to be heard.

The talks also focused on removing some migrants already living in the US without full legal status, and on ways to temporarily close the US-Mexico border to some crossings if they reach a certain benchmark or threshold. The number of migrant arrests exceeds 10,000 on some days.

There has also been discussion about restricting existing programs that have allowed groups of arrivals from certain countries to temporarily enter the U.S. while they await proceedings on their claims. Decades ago, these programs welcomed Vietnamese arrivals and others, and have since been opened to Ukrainians, Afghans and a group that also includes Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans and Haitians.

Meanwhile, Biden's massive $110 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other security needs hangs in the balance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a dramatic, if disappointing, visit to Washington last week to plead with Congress and the White House for access to American weaponry as his country battles Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.

Many, but not all, Republicans have soured on helping Ukraine fight Russia, based on Trump's signals. The former president praised Putin and quoted the Russian leader during Saturday's meeting as he characterized the multiple investigations against him as politically motivated — including the federal indictment against Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election that resulted in the attack of January 6, 2021 at the Capitol. by a gang of Trump supporters.

Ukraine's ambassador to the United States said Sunday that she believes in “Christmas miracles” and will not give up hope.

Of Biden's package, about $61 billion would go to Ukraine, about half of the money the U.S. Defense Department would need to use to buy and replenish tanks, artillery and other weaponry used in the war effort.

“All eyes are now on Congress,” the envoy, Oksana Markarova, said on CBS' “Face the Nation.”

“We can only pray and hope that a solution will be found, and that the deal they will be able to reach will allow quick decisions also on support for Ukraine,” she said.

The House has already left for the holiday recess, but Republican Speaker Mike Johnson is being kept informed of the negotiations in the Senate.