Analysis | Why Denver’s Democratic mayor is pushing for a border bill (2024)




Good morning, Early Birds. The federal government won’t shut down tonight at midnight. Congress passed its third stopgap funding bill in less than four months yesterday, which will fund part of the government through March 1 and the rest through March 8. A bare majority of House Republicans — 107 of 213 who voted — supported the bill. (The Senate passed it by a wide margin.)

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In today’s edition … Inside the breakup of Haley and Trump’s partnership over her U.N. role … Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar on the Biden administration’s immigration problems … but first …

On the Hill

Senators near a border deal

Senate leaders’ optimism for a border security deal we reported yesterday continues.

Senate negotiators are closing in on a deal to tighten up the border as part of a national security supplemental, multiple sources tell Leigh Ann and our colleague Liz Goodwin. The hope continues to be to roll out the proposal next week.


Still, anything could derail the talks at this critical juncture. The negotiators — Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) — are working with Senate leadership and the White House on translating their policy agreements into legislative text, a process that is difficult and nuanced on such a complicated issue, two sources familiar with the negotiations said. They also must hammer out how to allocate money to address border security, as President Biden has requested $14 billion for the border.

“On issues as complex as immigration and national security, what matters is not just what we do, but how we do it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday. “The smallest details matter immensely and it takes time to work though those details.”

Why Denver’s Democratic mayor is pushing for a border bill

Six questions for … Denver Mayor Mike Johnston: We sat down with Johnston on Thursday while he was in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’s winter meeting and to push for legislation to help Denver deal with the more than 37,000 migrants who have arrived in the city since December, severely straining the city’s resources.


Johnston is trying to ensure the immigration bill that Sinema, Lankford and Murphy are drafting includes two priorities: funding for cities such as Denver, which has spent more than $38 million since December to house and care for migrants, and work authorization for them.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Early: Can you give me a sense of the impact that the migrants who have arrived in Denver since December have had on the city?

Johnston: We’ve seen for the first time large encampments grow up of migrants who are living homeless and on the streets — families and kids who we found in tents in 10-degree weather who we all brought indoors. We see dozens of people showing up in Home Depot and Walmart parking lots every day looking for a day job or a day shift — someone to hire them to do some construction or do some household chores or landscaping or whatever it might be. You see the suffering of people who can’t get access to work, who can’t get income for housing and who are trying to find work on the black market. And then we get more and more tales of folks who have found jobs on the black market and gotten their wages stolen and are trying to recover them.


The Early: What response have you gotten from the White House when you’ve asked for help?

Johnston: We’ve found [Homeland Security] Secretary [Alejandro] Mayorkas to be incredibly responsive. He was one of the first meetings I had in July when I got elected mayor and Gov. [Jared] Polis and I sat down with him in Colorado. We really pushed aggressively on the need for work authorization. He responded soon after with granting the temporary protective status to Venezuelans who arrived before July 31. [Along with] the addition of the CBP One application, which allows [migrants to obtain] immediate work authorization — those two developments were game changers for us. That allowed us throughout the fall to help the great majority of people integrate quickly into work, into finding apartments and arriving in the community successfully.

The Early: How much blame do you place on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for causing this crisis by sending buses of migrants to Denver?


Johnston: I understand the nature of the crisis he’s facing, because I share his belief that no one state or one city should have to bear the entire burden of this challenge. But I think there’s a much more collaborative way to go about it. I do think he seems to be trying harder to make a point than to make a difference.

The Early: Abbott has sent migrants to Denver and New York and Chicago as a way to put pressure on Democratic mayors who could put pressure on the White House. Is his strategy working?

Johnston: Well, I think the biggest reason why he sends folks to Denver is because we’re the cheapest bus ticket from El Paso. It’s an $80 bus ticket from El Paso to Denver straight up I-25. I think it’s a combination of him trying to get our attention but also trying to do what’s cost effective for him.


This would be a real moment for Gov. Abbott, if he wants our advocacy to help him, to push Republican members of the House to be able to support [the Senate bill]. I’d be happy to come up and lobby Congress with him shoulder-to-shoulder if he wants to do that.

The Early: Fourteen House Democrats voted Wednesday for a resolution criticizing President Biden’s handling of the border. Would you count yourself among the Democrats who are critical of the president's record on this?

Johnston: I would not put myself in the category of folks who are critical of the president’s handling of this.

We went to the secretary of homeland security [last year] and said, “We understand these are valid asylum seekers. We understand you don’t have the resources to process their claims for six years. If they’re here waiting six years for a claim, let’s let them be able to work while they’re here.” He said, “Yes, I hear you,” [and] made an executive action to give them work authorization — and now faces impeachment for that action. That is the president and the White House doing what we're asking them to do, trying to solve the problem and facing political backlash for it.


The Early: Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) did not sound especially optimistic about passing border legislation after he left the White House Wednesday. What happens if this bill stalls?

Johnston: If this bill stalls and there is no federal legislation coming with financial support for cities or with work authorization changes, we will be facing a massive fiscal crisis in the city. We’ll have to dramatically change the levels of support we can provide to migrants coming to the city. And we’ll have to make dramatic cuts to city budget. We’d have to look at all creative options on how we could solve that, including finding ways for people to work that don’t have federal work authorization.

That is a “Lord of the Flies” scenario. That’s the one I lose sleep about.


Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) spoke with Leigh Ann for Washington Post Live yesterday. He told her Biden needs to — and can — do more to control the influx of migrants at the border. Cuellar, whose district runs from San Antonio to the border with Mexico, said the president’s support for Democrats and the president is waning with Hispanics who live near the border because of the heavy flow of migrants.


“[Democrats] have a position on immigration but we need to have a position on border security,” he said. Cuellar said the Biden administration should look to President Barack Obama’s Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who “did it very well.”

Obama and Johnson “didn’t create new laws, didn’t ask for new laws, didn’t ask for Title 42. He used Title 8, expedited removal. You put money in the operational capacity, detain and deport the ones that are not supposed to be here,” Cuellar said. You can watch the full program here.

White House Notebook

Biden hits the campaign trail, one fast food joint at a time

Ace White House reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb files this White House Notebook column:

Biden has grappled with less-than-encouraging news for the last several weeks on his reelection bid: Voters think he’s too old. He’s losing support among key parts of his Democratic base over his handling of Israel’s war in Gaza. Former president Donald Trump, his likely Republican rival, is leading in several key swing states, according to numerous polls.


In public, Biden and his aides have downplayed concerns over the polls and have insisted voters will support the president once it becomes a head-to-head contest with Trump. Still, Biden’s aides are working to show voters that the president, who is 81, is up to the job mentally and physically.

Part of that effort seems to now include smaller, more intimate campaign stops, where aides say Biden is at his best. Biden this month has made several stops at small, local establishments, such as fast food joints, fire stations or bike stores, where he can interact with voters one-on-one.

On Thursday, Biden traveled to North Carolina for a mix of official White House business and campaign events. After an official event touting increased access to high-speed internet, Biden shifted to campaign mode.

He first stopped at Cook Out, a popular fast food joint in the state, where he mingled with excited employees eager to take pictures with him. Biden held one woman’s iPhone and took a selfie with three employees before taking a handful of individual ones.

“The governor was bragging about your place. He said, ’You have the best shakes in North Carolina,’” Biden told the employees.

The president then ordered two milkshakes — one for him and one for Gov. Roy Cooper (D) — as well as a bacon cheeseburger and french fries. Biden told reporters he ordered a triple-thick black and white: a vanilla milkshake with chocolate sauce.

Biden’s next stop was at a local resident’s home for a “kitchen table conversation” about how his administration’s policies had impacted the family’s life. The Biden campaign said the president was speaking to the family of an educator “who had a significant amount of student debt forgiven.” (Members of the press were not allowed in for the meeting.)

It’s still early days, so it’s unclear how effective this strategy will be. But we’ll be eagerly watching to see where else Biden visits in the coming weeks and months and whether it helps turn around his flagging poll numbers.

You can follow all of Yasmeen’s work here and follow her on X here. Have you read her book about the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic? Order it here.

The campaign

Inside the breakup of Haley and Trump’s partnership over her U.N. role

Our colleague Michael Kranish examines Nikki Haley’s time as ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump and how her relationship with the former president as a member of his administration mirrors their current relationship as Republican primary opponents. Here’s an excerpt:

“From the start, Haley faced an intractable problem in how to be effective as Trump’s U.N. ambassador,” Michael writes. “It was Haley’s first real experience with foreign affairs, and the first exposure to the kinds of high-stakes geopolitical decisions that presidents make — a steep learning curve for the former South Carolina governor who said she had never met an Israeli leader or traveled to the region and described herself as a ‘foreign policy novice.’”

  • “One year into her term as U.N. ambassador, Haley faced a stark choice: whether to keep leveraging the organization’s power to help refugees, as she’d pledged to do when taking the job, or whether to ally herself with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, in pushing to cut off U.S. funding.”
  • “Her ultimate decision to work with Kushner — and in the process, embrace a hard-line stance that would anger some allies but please the president — foreshadowed her actions as a presidential candidate. She has, until recently, muted much of her criticism of Trump, mostly praised his policies and even promised to pardon him if he’s convicted in any of the four criminal cases he faces.”

The Media

Must reads

From The Post:

  • She filed a complaint after being denied an abortion. Biden officials shut her down. By Caroline Kitchener and Dan Diamond.
  • New York’s use of red-flag laws to seize guns has skyrocketed. By Joanna Slater.
  • Trump urges Supreme Court to keep his name on ballot, warns of ‘bedlam.’ By Ann E. Marimow.
  • Hunter Biden agrees to sit for a House deposition on Feb. 28. By Mariana Alfaro, Jacqueline Alemany and Matt Viser.
  • House, Senate pass short-term bill averting government shutdown until March. By Jacob Bogage and Marianna Sotomayor.
  • Defense chief Austin asked to testify before Congress on hospital secrecy. By Adela Suliman and Dan Lammothe.

From across the web:


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— Metro Forward (@wmata) January 17, 2024

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on X: @theodoricmeyer and @LACaldwellDC.

As an expert in political affairs and government processes, I'd like to delve into the details of the recent developments mentioned in the article. My expertise lies in understanding the intricacies of legislative actions, border security negotiations, and the challenges faced by local authorities in dealing with immigration issues.

The article discusses the passage of a stopgap funding bill by Congress, averting a federal government shutdown. This bill funds part of the government through March 1 and the rest through March 8. Notably, a bare majority of House Republicans supported the bill, raising questions about the internal dynamics within the party.

The focus then shifts to Senate negotiators working on a border security deal as part of a national security supplemental. Senators James Lankford, Chris Murphy, and Kyrsten Sinema are involved in translating policy agreements into legislative text. The complexity of this process, especially regarding the allocation of $14 billion for border security, is emphasized by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston's interview sheds light on the impact of migrants on the city and the need for financial support. He emphasizes the importance of work authorization and collaboration between states and cities in addressing the immigration challenge. Mayor Johnston also discusses the response from Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and the role of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the crisis.

The article touches on the perspective of Rep. Henry Cuellar, who advocates for a balanced approach to immigration and border security, citing the strategies employed during the Obama administration.

Finally, the article provides insights into President Biden's recent campaign-style events, emphasizing smaller, more intimate settings to connect with voters. This strategy aims to address concerns about Biden's age and appeal to voters on a personal level.

If you have specific questions or if there's a particular aspect you'd like me to elaborate on, feel free to ask.

Analysis | Why Denver’s Democratic mayor is pushing for a border bill (2024)
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