The Supplemental: Refugee-Related Considerations as Congress Navigates the Latest Funding Fight

By USCRI February 13, 2024

On February 4, U.S. Senate leadership and a group of Senators released a legislative deal to provide additional, or supplemental, funding to a variety of U.S. government priorities. The proposal sparked immediate controversy for its vast changes to U.S. immigration and border policy. Early on February 13, a majority of the Senate passed a version of the supplemental that primarily focuses on foreign assistance and national security. Its future in the U.S. House of Representatives—and whether it can become law— is uncertain.

This policy brief covers how the U.S. Congress and the Biden administration reached this point on supplemental funding and where the debate currently stands. It discusses a way forward on the impasse on the supplemental that maximizes support and protection throughout the U.S. refugee resettlement and immigration systems.


In August 2023, the Biden administration requested supplemental funding from Congress for support to Ukraine in its war with Russia; federal disaster response and recovery efforts; and U.S. border enforcement, management, and migrant services. This request went basically nowhere as Congress focused its energy on securing a last-minute continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown on September 30.

With the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East, President Biden on October 20 released an expanded supplemental request that included additional funding for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, the United States-Mexico border, humanitarian assistance, and other priorities. The administration’s request again included large-scale investments in administering the U.S. immigration system, including more Border Patrol agents, immigration judge teams, asylum officers, and more.

However, lawmakers on the Hill increasingly called for changes in underlying immigration law at the border in exchange for the foreign aid related to Ukraine, Taiwan, and other security partners. Republicans pushed for changes to the asylum system such as raising the credible fear standard and limiting the president’s parole authority. Many of these controversial proposals were drawn from H.R. 2, a hardline immigration bill that previously passed the House of Representatives with no bipartisan support.

With momentum growing to link approval for foreign assistance with changes to U.S. border and immigration policy, a group of lawmakers including Senators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) were tasked with leading negotiations in the Senate to craft a new supplemental deal. While press reports throughout December and January provided some information on the substance of the deal, these negotiations were not public.


Click here to read the report.


USCRI, founded in 1911, is a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organization committed to working on behalf of refugees and immigrants and their transition to a dignified life.

For inquiries, please contact: policy@uscrimail.org


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