What will they stomach? – POLITICO

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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration.

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Immigration policy advocates are growing more nervous that the Biden administration may offer Republicans major policy concessions as part of a larger deal to pass aid to Israel and Ukraine.

The latest concern centers around the possibility that the administration may agree to bring back the DONALD TRUMP-era border policy known as Remain in Mexico. According to two people familiar with the discussions, high-level Biden administration officials have raised the possibility the much-derided policy may come back into place as part of a deal cut with congressional Republicans around that foreign aid package.

A White House official told West Wing Playbook that “this report is not accurate.” The official went on to note that “only Congress has the power to comprehensively address” the “broken” immigration system.

“Without Congressional action, we have taken action within our authority to enforce our immigration laws, expand lawful pathways, and work with international partners — including those the President is meeting with today — to manage migration in the region,” the official said.

But inside immigration policy circles, there is bubbling fear that Remain in Mexico could be revived, though advocates acknowledge this would recquire Mexico’s cooperation. It was not lost on them that Ohio Sen. J.D. VANCE said Thursday that Republicans have been discussing several proposals, including both the reimplementation of Remain in Mexico and changes to asylum law.

The Biden administration has made no secret of its position on Remain in Mexico, which the Department of Homeland Security once decried for imposing “unjustifiable human costs.

President JOE BIDEN spent almost two years trying to knock down the policy, stymied by legal challenges along the way. Then, in June 2022, the Supreme Court allowed the president to move forward with terminating the policy, which forced migrants to wait in Mexico as their cases are adjudicated in U.S. immigration courts. More than 75,000 migrants were subject to the policy from January 2019 until its end, spurring numerous reports of threats and violence, including kidnapping, sexual assault and extortion.

Just the mention of the controversial policy in closed-door exchanges has raised concerns. A return of Remain in Mexico, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, would spark intense blowback among Democrats and immigration advocates, including those who have called out the White House for lacking a humane approach to the border.

“It would be a devastating political reversal given their extensive documentation of the human cost of the policy,” a former administration official said of the idea of reinstating Remain in Mexico.

As POLITICO reported yesterday, top Biden officials in the White House and DHS have begun preparing Democratic lawmakers and immigration policy advocates for the likelihood the administration will have to propose changes to asylum law to get the president’s national security package across the finish line. In private conversations, officials have mentioned raising the credible fear standard for asylum seekers as one concession. Such a move would ultimately deny more migrants the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The larger concern among advocates is that the nature of the negotiations could result in Congress approving a slap-dash collection of immigration policy reforms that could change immigration law for decades to come. It’s giving some immigration policy experts flashbacks to 1996, when President BILL CLINTON signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that overhauled immigration enforcement in the U.S. and laid the foundation for mass deportation.

Advocates say they have warned administration officials that now is not the time to negotiate with Republicans on a complicated issue that requires a thought-out, expansive solution.

“The United States’ commitment to help those facing crises around the world must also extend to those seeking safety at our doorstep. We urge the administration to reject linking the decimation of our legal asylum system with providing aid to Ukraine and Israel,” KICA MATOS, president of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement on reports the administration is considering asylum changes.

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Which U.S. president cheated on his taxes by taking a home office deduction for his house, claiming it was his primary residence, even though he was living at the White House?

(Answer at bottom.)

SITTING IT OUT: President Joe Biden is likely to refrain from any more international trips for the rest of 2023, including the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Dubai as well as his promised trip to Africa, our JONATHAN LEMIRE reports. A White House official cited the ongoing Israel-Hamas war as a factor impacting the president’s schedule, in addition to the potential for a government shutdown in the coming weeks.

YET ANOTHER VISIT TO A MASS SHOOTING SITE: The president and first lady visited Lewiston, Maine, on Friday afternoon to pay respects to the victims of last week’s mass shooting that left 18 people dead and more than a dozen others injured. They brought a bouquet of white flowers to Schemengees Bar and Grille and met with first responders at Just-In-Time Recreation.

These types of visits have become an unfortunate routine for the president. In his public remarks, Biden listed just some of the cities where he and the first lady have visited to meet with victims — among them, Uvalde, Texas, where 19 elementary school kids were killed; Buffalo, N.Y., following a racist massacre at a grocery store; and Monterey Park, Calif., where a gunman stormed a dance hall and killed 11 people. “Too many to count. Too many to count from places that never make the news, all across America,” he said.

DIFFERENT EVENT, DIFFERENT VIBE: Before leaving the White House for Maine, Biden met with leaders from the Western Hemisphere for the inaugural Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity Leaders’ Summit. As our ARI HAWKINS reports, the Biden administration is starting to feel the heat from foreign allies, and many in his own party, over the U.S. economic agenda in South America. Many Latin American leaders expected the pact, which was first announced last summer, to focus on expanding trade opportunities with the U.S., but there is concern that migration dominates much of the framework.

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS: Biden-Harris campaign manager JULIE CHAVEZ RODRIGUEZ sent around a memo Thursday night on the “state of the race,” marking one year out from the 2024 election.

Rodriguez wrote that regardless of who emerged from the Republican primary, the 2024 general election would be “very close.” But she argued that Biden was in a good position to retain the White House and noted similar themes that he ran on in 2020 will be critical to winning again, including “protecting democracy and the soul of the nation, making the economy work for the middle class, fighting for more rights not fewer.” AP’s ZEKE MILLER and WILL WEISSERT have more on the memo.

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: This piece by NBC’s MONICA ALBA about how President BARACK OBAMA has advised the Biden administration on its AI strategy. Alba reports that for months, the former president has engaged in meetings with tech companies and White House aides.

White House Deputy Communications Director HERBIE ZISKEND shared the piece on X, with chief of staff JEFF ZIENTS also reposting the story.

Both came as a bit of a surprise, given that Biden has been attacked as being a puppet for Obama.

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This piece by HuffPost’s LIZ SKALKA, DANIEL MARANS and AKBAR SHAHID AHMED about how more than 50 Democratic National Committee employees have signed an open letter urging the president to seek a ceasefire in Israel. This comes as Biden faces mounting criticism from within his own party over his handling of the conflict.

The HuffPost team writes that the document “underscores how frustrated many Democrats have become with Biden’s reluctance to demand Israeli restraint in the country’s now month-long offensive against Hamas.”

BETTER THAN MADAME TUSSAUDS: The White House Historical Association announced Friday that it is opening a new center in the fall of 2024 that will recreate the Oval Office and other rooms the public is unable to see on White House tours.

“This will be a technology-rich, immersive experience where you will actually go into spaces and, due to the miracles of modern technology, those spaces will become White House rooms around you,” STEWART MCLAURIN, the association’s president, told the AP’s DARLENE SUPERVILLE.

A TRULY UNORIGINAL STATE TO VISIT: Biden will travel Monday to New Castle County in — you guessed it — Delaware, to tout Bidenomics and his Investing in America agenda, including the $1.4 billion investment in passenger rail.

Delaware is known as The First State. And indeed, it appears to be the first state that Biden wants to visit. And the second. And the third. And the fourth. And the….

FIRST IN WEST WING PLAYBOOK: HARRY SEAVEY is now special adviser for the Office of Financial Stability Oversight Council at the Treasury Department, our DANIEL LIPPMAN has learned. He most recently was a special assistant and adviser to the president and CEO of the Asia Society.

— AUSTIN TYREE is now special assistant to the acting assistant secretary for legislative affairs at Treasury. He most recently was a government affairs intern at Ford.

MORE PERSONNEL MOVES: HANNAH GARDEN-MONHEIT, a staffer on the National Economic Council focused on competition policy, is headed to the Federal Trade Commission to take on a similar role, our JOSH SISCO reports for Pro subscribers.

PETE’S LATE NIGHT APPEAL: During an appearance last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Transportation Secretary PETE BUTTIGIEG was asked how he could work with MIKE JOHNSON given that the new House speaker has argued that “homosexual marriage is the dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.”

Buttigieg, the father of toddler twins, said the answer was to have him over to his house.

“If he could see what it’s like when I come home from work and Chasten is bringing the kids home from daycare — or vice versa — and one of us is getting the mac and cheese ready and the other one is microwaving those little freezer meatballs… and they won’t take their shoes off and one of them needs a diaper change — everything about that is chaos, but nothing about that is dark,” he said. “The love of god is in that household.”

NOT ON THE SAME PAGE: Despite Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN’s call for a humanitarian pause, Prime Minister BENJAMIN NETANYAHU announced on Friday that Israel will continue its military operations in Gaza with “all of its power,” our MATT BERG reports.

Blinken arrived Friday in Israel in what was another round of diplomatic efforts to push the Israeli government to agree to the temporary humanitarian pauses. Netanyahu said his nation will “refuse” any of these pauses until Hamas releases the over 200 Israeli hostages they have captive.

Here’s What Biden Can Do to Change His Grim Polling (The Atlantic’s David Frum)

Kentucky is about to give us a major test of Biden’s unpopularity (POLITICO’s Steven Shepard)

Biden Can’t Stop Immigration. Time to Embrace It. (Cato Institute’s David J. Bier for the New York Times)

RICHARD NIXON, who also didn’t pay any California state taxes despite alleging he was living there, according to DAVID WESSEL’s book, “Red Ink: the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget.”

A CALL OUT! Do you think you have a harder trivia question? Send us your best one about the presidents, with a citation or sourcing, and we may feature it!

Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein.



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