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Will Democrats concede on border security to pass aid for Ukraine?


How much should President Biden give up in order to get U.S. help for Israel and Ukraine? The White House has requested funds to support both U.S. allies. Many Republicans in Congress say they want the money, too, but some oppose helping Ukraine. And in Congress, the party has demanded that the president give something in return, a crackdown on migration at the southern U.S. border, making it harder for asylum-seekers to stay, among other things. This raises questions of both policy and politics, so we have called Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist with the Dewey Square Group. Welcome back to the program. Good morning.

MARIA CARDONA: Thank you so much, Steve. Great to be with you.

INSKEEP: Hasn't the president already signaled he would do some version of this deal?

CARDONA: The president has signaled that he is absolutely willing to negotiate. He has always said that. You know, Steve, he is one that is a big fan of compromise and bipartisanship because that's the only way that you can get something done in this incredibly divided, polarized country. But what I think the White House and Democrats need to be aware of is they should not be giving up the store for aid for Ukraine, for Israel, which is incredibly important, but it's temporary. Asylum law, immigration law are things that are so incredibly complicated. And as you know, it has taken years and decades for Republicans and Democrats to come together, and they haven't even been close to trying to get a deal done.

And so it is not appropriate to try to do this at the 11th hour as a rider on money that most Democrats, most Republicans agree that should get done. This is something that should be done in a carefully bipartisanship manner. Look, this is a problem that has been in the making for years. And during the Trump administration, they completely eviscerated our asylum system. So you can't fix this in a week or two. While the administration should be willing to sit down and look at what is possible...

INSKEEP: Understood. But let me just ask, and you make an - if I can, you make an interesting point...

CARDONA: ...They shouldn't give away the store.

INSKEEP: I'm not sure if you can hear me, Maria, but you make a very interesting point in that Republicans are demanding something permanent in exchange for something temporary, which seems a little bit awkward, to say the least.


INSKEEP: And yet the president knows that his job is to enforce the law, knows that he has a political problem as well as a policy issue with people crossing the border. There are Democratic mayors complaining about migrants in their cities. Would it perhaps help the president to make this deal politically?

CARDONA: Well, look, like I said, the president is certainly willing to sit down and look at what needs to be done. He is willing to concede some things, but what he shouldn't be willing to concede is everything. What Republicans want - and make no mistake about this, Steve - they want to shut down the border. They don't want any additional immigrants to come in here to try to live a better life. They don't want to give any affirmative relief, any additional legal pathways for the 11 million undocumented immigrants that have been long settled here in the country.

And so those are things that Republicans, if they really want to negotiate - it's called a negotiation, Steve. They are not offering anything for this except for the money for Ukraine and Israel. If they really want a deal that works on the border, they have to be willing to give something. As you know, that - it's a very difficult situation. And what Democrats and this president should not accept is the Trump and Stephen Miller, who, as you know, is his...

INSKEEP: Yeah, I understand. But...

CARDONA: ...Well-known xenophobic adviser, to shut down everything.

INSKEEP: Yeah, I understand. Let's remember that some Trump policies - and this is a disputed point, but some Trump policies were continued by the current president. What - in the few seconds that we have, what is something that you think the president could give up that would be reasonable in the context of this negotiation and is simple enough to get done quickly?

CARDONA: What he has already given, Steve, and I don't think this has been reported enough, is he has given - he has signaled that he wants to do additional border security, smart border security measures, Steve. Additional money for border patrol, additional money for technology, additional money for asylum caseworkers, for asylum judges, immigration judges at the border, to be able to process the people that are coming here to seek asylum, which, as you know, is something that we should be - that is possible under the law.


CARDONA: And that is not something that we should be changing at the 11th hour, Steve.

INSKEEP: Something you could...

CARDONA: There are things that can be accepted, negotiated, but we should not be giving away everything and shutting down our border.

INSKEEP: OK, and that is something that the two sides could agree on plausibly. It's just more money to make the system work faster. Thanks so much, Maria Cardona. Appreciate your insights.

CARDONA: Thank you so much, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.