THE BIG NEWS
Biden Touts Border Deal To Keep Ukraine and Israel Aid Flowing
Members of Congress reached a long-sought deal to implement more draconian border and immigration policies. In exchange, some Republicans will support sending billions of dollars in further military aid to Ukraine and Israel. The legislation "would give the president far-reaching powers to clamp down on unlawful border crossings, including the authority to turn away migrants without allowing them to request asylum," according to CBS News. It would not provide a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million or so undocumented migrants living in this country.
President Biden called the agreement "the toughest and fairest set of border reforms in decades." He noted that the deal calls for "life-saving humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian people" – a promise that seems at odds with providing further military support to Israeli forces that are currently killing Palestinians en masse. He also claimed that the measure would help stop the flow of fentanyl – a major concern for Republicans – despite the fact that most fentanyl is not brought over the border by migrants.
The overall "national security supplemental package" is budgeted to cost $118.28 billion. Of that, about $60 billion will go to Ukraine, $14.1 billion to Israel, and $10 billion to humanitarian aid for people in war-torn regions from Palestine to Ukraine to parts unknown. There's even a few billion in there to "deter aggression by the Chinese government" in the contested Indo-Pacific region.
Although the right to request asylum is enshrined in international law, successive presidential administrations have chiseled away at the system, and would-be asylum seekers are often turned away or are forced to wait in limbo for years. This new deal calls for the Department of Homeland Security to limit border crossings above a certain daily threshold. Biden himself has promised to "shut down" the border, saying that he would do that on "day one" after the law is passed.
It's a grim marker of where we're at that top Democrats are touting a plan to further militarize the border and impede immigration and asylum, possibly in violation of international law. That this authoritarian measure would then be tied to further funding for devastating wars in Ukraine and Gaza reflects seems like something out of a twenty-year-old neoconservative playbook. It's possible the deal won't pass the Republican-dominated House – which may be the best possible outcome.
MORE STORIES TO WATCH
Border Invasion Turns Out to Be Nothing of the Sort
In recent weeks, groups of jingoistic Americans have been driving to the U.S.-Mexico border in order to stop a supposed flood of illegal migrants. Over the weekend, reports emerged that the convoy of would-be border deputies was much smaller than had been expected (or hyped) and that the border invasion was anything but. "It's not as bad as what I thought, so that's kind of eye-opening," one attendee at an encampment in Eagle Pass, Texas, told MSNBC.
The situation in Eagle Pass quickly descended into farce, as people with far too much time on their hands descended upon the region to play border cop against destitute migrants but found they had nothing to do. The sideshow masks an important political battle taking place, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott has essentially deputized himself, and the Texas National Guard, to take over border enforcement duties from the federal government. Texas authorities have prevented the Border Patrol from accessing a park in Eagle Pass and have covered the area in razor wire. Leaning on anti-government and a-civil-war-is-coming rhetoric, Abbott and 13 other Republican governors have formed a united bloc to repel what they claim is an "invasion."
US Launches More Airstrikes Across the Middle East
The United States continues to bomb "Iranian-sponsored militias" in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, partly in response to the January 28 bombing of a U.S. military outpost in Jordan that killed three soldiers. Dozens of targets were hit throughout the weekend, with more air strikes likely to come. The Biden administration claims the strikes are necessary to protect U.S. forces and global shipping in the Red Sea, but there's little sign that they've had any positive effect. Iranian and Iraqi officials – some of whom would like U.S. forces to leave the country for good – condemned the attacks, while the U.S. has repeatedly claimed that it's not seeking a "wider war," merely an amuse-bouche of war-like activity.
- Dearborn On Alert After WSJ "Jihad Capital" Article On Friday, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece calling Dearborn, Michigan, "America's jihad capital," stoking widespread outrage. The mayor of Dearborn, which has large Muslim and Arab populations, denounced the article and said that, following threats, he was boosting the presence of police at local houses of worship. via Reuters.
- Partner of Holocaust Survivor Accuses Musk of Using Auschwitz For a Photo Op The partner of a Holocaust survivor who was flown in to tour Auschwitz with Elon Musk and right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro said that they were used as window dressing for a "politically and emotionally loaded, elaborate photo opp." via Times of Israel.
- Southern California Soaked By Fierce Storm An "atmospheric river" descended on southern California over the weekend, soaking the region from Santa Barbara to San Diego. Numerous warnings – and even some evacuation orders – were issued in response to concerns about potentially major floods. via Los Angeles Times.
- Taylor Swift Does Something, Receives Attention Pop star Taylor Swift, the most powerful force in the known universe, won her fourth album of the year award last night at the Grammy Awards and announced that her next record would be released in April. via Washington Post.
That's the percentage of the vote that President Nayib Bukele of El Salvador claimed he won in yesterday's presidential election. The self-described "world's coolest dictator" ran for re-election despite his country's constitution prohibiting it (don't worry, they found a workaround). The 42-year-old Bukele surged in popularity after instituting a state of emergency and launching a mass arrest campaign against El Salvador's vicious gangs, which has resulted in about 2 percent of the population being imprisoned. While El Salvador has traded liberty for security, critics worry that the authoritarian Bukele has created the conditions for the sort of dictatorship he used to joke about.
ON THE SHOW TODAY
2/5: Happy Monday! Sam and Emma speak with Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg, to discuss his recent book Good Jew Bad Jew: Racism, anti-Semitism and the assault on meaning.
DON'T MISS MR CLIPS
The Intercept's Ken Klippenstein dropped in to talk about the lack of transparency surrounding the US troop presence in a number of Middle Eastern countries.
The MAGA base may love Trump, but he's leading them into a corner.
"A true great man. Great dad. Great actor. Great athlete. So much fun to be around always. Smart as hell. Loyal as hell. Funny as hell. Loved his sons more than anything. What a guy!! Everyone loved him. My wife and I had the best times with him every time we saw him. Love to his entire family and Carl will always be known as a true legend."
-- Adam Sandler's tribute to fellow actor Carl Weathers, who died over the weekend at age 76. A former pro football player who starred in four Rocky movies (Sylvester Stallone: "I was so fortunate to be part of his life") along with dozens of other productions, Weathers was widely eulogized by his peers. Whether portraying a muscled mercenary in Predator or a kooky skinflint acting coach in Arrested Development, Weathers was a charming, affable, physically imposing presence across decades of TV and film performances.