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Right-wing media bash immigration bill that’s a gift to Republicans

Some right-wing figures are pointing out that the bill is a GOP wish list, while many melt down over the proposal and spread lies about its contents

On Sunday, the U.S. Senate unveiled a bipartisan bill that would increase funding for security at the southern U.S. border, as well as aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Palestine. While many right-wing media figures are following former President Donald Trump’s orders to “kill” the bill and maintain the border as an election-year wedge issue, some are noting that the proposal is a GOP wish list, containing elements that the right have been demanding for years.

  • The Senate has unveiled a $118 billion bipartisan bill doling out funding for border security and international aid

    • The deal is the result of “more than three months of near-daily talks, cementing an improbable breakthrough on a policy matter that has bedeviled presidents of both parties.” The bill allocates $20.2 billion for improvements to border security, as well as “$60.1 billion for Ukraine, $14.1 billion in security assistance for Israel, and $10 billion in humanitarian aid for civilians in conflict zones including Gaza, the West Bank and Ukraine." [The New York Times, 2/4/24]
    • The bill also contains consequential immigration policy reforms, including making it harder to claim asylum, expanding detention capacity, forcing the use of existing border wall funds, and allowing the border to be effectively shut down completely if an average of more than 5,000 daily migrants try to cross unlawfully during the course of a week. Politico called it the “most stringent immigration bill endorsed by a Democratic president in recent memory,” and The New York Times described the measures as “some of the most significant border security restrictions Congress has contemplated in years.” [The New York Times, 2/4/24; Politico, 2/5/24
    • Trump has been vocally opposed to the bill, urging Republicans to “kill” the deal so he can campaign on immigration. The Washington Post reported that though the deal contains tough border provisions the GOP has been fighting for, “the politics of the deal abruptly changed when Trump and his allies began attacking the idea of passing any border legislation — fearful that addressing the border crisis might remove a potent campaign issue for him in an election year.” [Media Matters, 2/2/24; The Washington Post, 2/4/24]
    • Before the text of the bill was released, Trump and his allies predicted that it would allow 5,000 immigrants to cross the border each day. Instead of walking back the false claims and admitting that the deal concedes to many right-wing demands, staunch supporters are falsely labeling the bill “amnesty.” [The Washington Post, 2/5/24]
    • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who led GOP negotiations for the deal, has been trying to tamp down right-wing outrage by reminding Trump’s allies that the bill is not as progressive as they claim. In an appearance on Fox & Friends, Lankford responded to Republican criticism, including that of Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, who called the bill “dead on arrival” and claimed that “the border never closes” under the legislation. Lankford pointed to the bill’s reforms, including “raising the standard of migrants seeking asylum, eliminating the backlog at immigration courts and granting the president new power to expel migrants and shut down the border” as wins for the GOP. He also stated on Newsmax, “I would also remind folks during the Trump administration we also had days of more than 4,000 people that were illegally crossing the border under the Trump administration in 2019 and they were struggling because there were gaps and loopholes in the law.” [The Hill, 2/5/24; Newsmax, Wake Up America, 2/5/24]
  • Few in right-wing media support the bill for its hawkish elements

    • National Review acknowledged that the “hawkish bill” is being met with a “dovish GOP.” The right-wing publication also argued that “Republican opposition to the Senate border deal is bad politics and bad policy” and that by “balking at this bill, Republicans are demonstrating a lack of good faith in their own approach.” [National Review, 2/5/24]
    • Fox anchor Bill Hemmer argued that if you enforce the bill, it “sounds pretty good on its face.” Hemmer also noted that “this is a Democratic president who would be signing this if it were to pass out of Congress in its current form.” [Fox News, America’s Newsroom, 2/5/24]
    • On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said it’s an “extraordinary thing” that the bill includes funds for building a border wall, adding that “you never would have thought that Democrats would vote for one dollar's worth of wall-building.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/5/24]
    • Conservative radio host Joe Walsh criticized Republican response to the bill, urging followers to acknowledge the downsides of politicizing the bill. He posted, “1. Republicans are scared to death to take a separate up or down vote on aid to Ukraine. 2. The Senate border bill isn’t perfect, it’s got problems & it needs work. But Republicans, for political reasons, won’t even take it up. 3. Mike Johnson is not the Speaker of the House. Donald Trump is.” [Twitter/X, 2/5/24]
    • Fox News chief political analyst Brit Hume claimed that “it turns out there is a lot in the bill that is worthwhile and will make things better on the border.” He also stated, “I think it is very notable that the Border Patrol union is supporting it. … The head of the Border Patrol union is supporting the bill even though he has endorsed Donald Trump, who opposes it. So, those are some voices I think we should listen to.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 2/5/24]
  • Many in conservative media are melting down over the bill, falsely saying that it codifies “invasion” and “mass amnesty,” attacking Republican supporters, and complaining about the amount of Ukraine aid included

    • Former Trump strategist and right-wing commentator Steve Bannon claimed that the Biden administration is “codifying 12 million illegal alien invaders on Biden’s watch by the end of it.” “This is a flat-out invasion,” Bannon said. “This bill does nothing more than codify it.” [Real America’s Voice, War Room, 2/5/24]
    • Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk called Sen. James Lankford “the worst of D.C.” and claimed that he “has deep bitter contempt for the people of Oklahoma.” “Why else would he be pushing mass amnesty?” Kirk asked. He also warned that “any Republican senator that votes for anything short of a complete closure of the southern border” would be targeted with a primary challenge, adding, “We will primary each and every one of you. You have been warned.” [Salem Media Group, The Charlie Kirk Show, 2/2/24]
    • Right-wing host Benny Johnson: “Every person who's a Republican that touched this bill needs to lose their jobs immediately, needs to be criminally prosecuted.” Echoing the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, Johnson also claimed the bill would pave the way for an “insurrection” via mass migration. “What you do by bringing in 30, 40, 50 million people from the third world who don't share our country's history, don't share the language of our country, the traditions of our country, the norms of our country, the morals of our country, what you do is you create a permanent political underclass that could be exploited for power. [YouTube, The Benny Show, 2/5/24]
    • Fox “news”-side correspondent Griff Jenkins pushed the false idea that the bill will allow 5,000 migrants a day. Jenkins stated that unnamed “border officials” said the bill and its “5,000 trigger” would send “a message around the world that says, ‘Hey, come on over. We're letting in 4,999 a day.’ And that is the wrong message to send.” He also posited that “this bill would usurp the fundamental law, Title VIII U.S. Code 1325, which makes it illegal to cross in the first place.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/5/24]
    • Conservative talk radio host Jesse Kelly posted: “Every sponsor of this bill should be arrested and put on trial.” [Twitter/X, 2/4/24]
    • As a guest on Fox News, OutKick’s Tomi Lahren said the bill amounts to “treason.” She later said that any Republican sponsor of the bill “should have their name on a list and they should never be elected to political office ever again under the ‘R’ label.” [Fox News, Hannity, 2/5/24]
    • Alex Jones claimed that the bill states that “Biden has the power of a dictator” and that “there must be 30 things in there that are just jaw-dropping.” Jones said under the bill, Biden “can declare an emergency and do whatever he wants on the border, including in cities around the country and giving them unlimited money.” [Infowars, The Alex Jones Show, 2/5/24]
    • Far-right activist and Islamophobe Laura Loomer posted an all-cap screed about the bill’s differing spending levels. She wrote: “OH MY GOD. THE NEW SENATE ‘BORDER BILL’ GIVES $60 BILLION MORE TO UKRAINE. ONLY $20 BILLION FOR OUR US BORDER. AND $2.3 BILLION MORE FOR ADDITIONAL REUGEE RESETTLEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE???? THIS IS INSANITY!!! AMERICA FIRST, NOW!” [Twitter/X, 2/4/24]
    • “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec theorized that this border bill is “clearly a setup for mass amnesty ahead of the elections.” [Twitter/X, 2/4/24]