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Tillis: Senate border talks yield ‘good progress’ on asylum, impasse on parole

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The group of senators trying to cut a bipartisan deal on border security has made progress on one of their main sticking points, according to one of the lead negotiators.

The Senate “Gang of Six” is closer to a deal on asylum reform than it was a couple weeks ago, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said. Still, he added that there’s now a big split over how to address the parole system used by some people seeking to get into the United States.

“We’ve made progress on asylum, some of the other reforms that I think would reduce future flows. But you just can’t have a wide open parole policy that this administration or future ones could abuse after a political cycle,” Tillis told reporters on Monday evening.

Republicans say they are unwilling to pass a massive supplemental spending bill to aid Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan without big border changes. That’s led to a new round of border talks among Tillis and Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

Tillis said negotiators in both parties are zeroing in on an agreement to raise the standard for asylum claims — a move that could reduce flows of people across the southern border — and called it “good progress” in the tricky talks. But he warned that if “you don’t make progress on parole … it’s not enough.”

“It’s not like the Democrats are completely against it, but drafting it and getting something that makes sense and satisfies Republicans is difficult,” Tillis said.

Democratic leaders say they are open to the border talks but also warned Republicans about taking too hard a line.

“This is a big ask by the Republicans, that we deal with a fundamental issue of immigration policy which has eluded us for 30 years,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “I hope cooler heads prevail.”