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Fetterman defends ‘reasonable’ border talks as fellow Dems fume

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As stalled immigration negotiations imperil U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) is blaming not only Republicans but also members of his own party for what he described as a reflexive political resistance to a border security deal.

“I hope Democrats can understand that it isn’t xenophobic to be concerned about the border,” Fetterman said in an interview. “It’s a reasonable conversation, and Democrats should engage.”

Fetterman, a progressive favorite, urged Democrats to acknowledge the large numbers of migrants streaming across the southern border. He cited the nearly 270,000 border encounters that U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported in September.

“Honestly, it’s astonishing. And this isn’t a Fox News kind of statistic. This is the government’s,” he said. “You essentially have Pittsburgh showing up there at the border.”

His remarks come as Democrats increasingly stiff-arm the border talks for skewing too far toward GOP demands — and they’re even more striking given his status as a longtime vocal advocate for immigrants. His wife, Gisele Fetterman, was a so-called “Dreamer” who came to the U.S. from Brazil when she was seven years old, a story he highlighted in a video during his 2022 Senate primary. (She became a citizen in 2009.)

The senator’s comments also demonstrate the degree to which he has positioned himself as a staunch ally to Israel during its war in Gaza, an outlook that has deeply frustrated his progressive allies. Fetterman, whose office is adorned with the Israeli flag and a “We Stand With Ukraine” poster, said he is “appalled” that Congress is considering “fucking over” the two countries.

He did not name specific concessions he would suggest making in negotiations with Republicans, saying that he doesn’t want to “paint myself into a corner” ahead of a deal. He did make clear that one red line for him is Dreamers: He would not support any legislation that puts them in harm’s way.

Fetterman added that he remains “perhaps the most pro-immigration member of the Senate” and that the GOP can’t expect to get everything they want in immigration talks. He bashed the House Republican border bill, which that chamber’s GOP leaders have insisted on including in any deal as an “OnlyFans wish list” for the opposing party.

Even as he dinged his colleagues, Fetterman acknowledged how complicated immigration reform is.

“I haven’t met anyone that can have a really crisp, cogent solution or easy solution on, ‘Well, what do you do when you have roughly a city similar in size of Pittsburgh coming up to the border?’” he said.