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Tensions flare between White House and Hispanic Caucus over border

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus is still upset with the White House for excluding them from border security talks on Capitol Hill. Now, as the Biden administration considers executive action to mitigate the migrant crisis, those tensions are bound to get a lot worse.

President Joe Biden — desperate for a win on the border in a presidential election year — is weighing using executive action to restrict asylum claims. But that comes amid growing strains between the White House and CHC members, who have warned Biden not to give in to hardline GOP demands on border security and immigration.

“I don’t think the Biden administration was going to get any credit for going Republican lite on immigration,” Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas) told us. “We’re never going to be halfway on the issue of immigration.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused Biden of mimicking former President Donald Trump, calling possible new asylum restrictions “outrageous.”

In a statement, the CHC said Biden’s consideration of using executive power to restrict asylum is “unbelievable.” CHC Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) asserted the group wasn’t briefed or consulted on any potential White House decisions.

The backstory: CHC members remain angry at the administration for snubbing them in the Senate border talks. The lawmakers argued it was unfair for there not to be any Hispanic or immigrant representation at the table.

Barragán even raised the issue at House Democrats’ retreat, typically an event meant for party unity and cheerleading.

“It’s completely unacceptable that the Hispanic Caucus would not be at the table on the issue that we lead on, which is immigration,” Barragán said. “We’ve got to continue to not just talk about it, but making sure something is done. We will continue to fight for that.”

The group was also rebuffed by Biden after requesting a meeting with him in December. CHC members plan to request another meeting once they issue their executive action recommendations likely next month, said a source familiar with the situation.

CHC vents frustration to Mayorkas: Some of that simmering anger bubbled over during a Jan. 31 meeting with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that included about nine CHC members.

“Up until that point, we hadn’t been engaged and we hadn’t been informed about the communication going on between the Senate and the White House,” said Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-Texas), who attended the meeting.

Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) said the meeting was “necessary” after the snub felt by many members on how the administration handled border talks.

Before that, the caucus had only met twice with Mayorkas on the supplemental — Aug. 17 and Oct. 25. Those meetings were described as status updates rather than efforts to consider members’ positions.

Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), who called the Senate proposal “abhorrent,” said there’s still widespread frustration.

“We’re not happy with the administration right now,” Vargas told us.

The White House did not respond to our request for comment.

Mica Soellner

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