Immigration changes will be part of military aid package for Israel and Ukraine: Lankford

The Republican senator also said he'd ultimately back Trump over Biden in 2024.

December 3, 2023, 1:33 PM

Major changes to America's immigration system will be part of a military aid package for Israel and Ukraine that will be finalized in Congress by year's end, Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford predicted on Sunday.

"We've got to actually bring a proposal forward that will actually make that difference, that could actually reform how we handle asylum ... from top to bottom, that we can actually handle how we're actually handling the process of all those individuals," Lankford, who is leading GOP senators in negotiations on the border, told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The Biden administration has proposed tens of billions of dollars for Israel and Ukraine in their respective wars as well as $14 billion for border security. But amid continued high immigration numbers at the southern border, GOP lawmakers have said those funds must be tied to policy changes like with the asylum system.

When pressed by Stephanopoulos if he would support overseas aid without substantial border legislation also included, Lankford replied, "No. We're going to do this all together."

"There's a reason that this hasn't been done in decades, because it's hard. It's very technical work, and there's a lot of challenges that are in it. And any time you deal with border security, there are a lot of complicating features in this. ... But the most important thing is to be able to get this right," Lankford said.

"People want a legal, orderly process, not the chaos that we currently have on our southern border," he argued, adding, "That shouldn't be too tall of an order to be able to fulfill."

Lankford cited some of the record-breaking statistics for migrants encountered at the southern border.

"This continues to spiral out of control," he said.

PHOTO: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) speaks on border security and Title 42 during a press conference at the Capitol on May 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) speaks on border security and Title 42 during a press conference at the Capitol on May 11, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images, FILE

White House spokesman John Kirby, also appearing on "This Week," said that Congress had "basically ignored" President Joe Biden's previous immigration reform plan.

He reitarerated that the administration wants its roughly $100 billion funding request addressed immediately.

And, Kirby said, "If they're serious about immigration reform, they ought to take that proposal up by the president."

Lankford was separately pressed multiple times by Stephanopoulos on whether he will support former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election, if Trump is the Republican nominee -- given Trump's numerous legal issues and controversies, including baseless attacks on the last presidential race and suggesting parts of the Constitution should be ended.

"That's not going to be me making that decision, that's going to be the American people that actually make that decision," Lankford initially said.

Asked again by Stephanopoulos, he said, "I've stayed out of this. Again, there's gonna be Republican voters and the American people that are going to make that decision."

When Stephanopoulos followed up for an answer, Lankford indicated that he would ultimately back Trump over Democratic President Joe Biden.

"If he ends up being the nominee, and I've got a choice between Donald Trump and Biden, I've got a choice between two different sets of policies .... That is not a hard choice," he said.

Stephanopoulos asked if Lankford would support Trump if Trump were convicted of one of the 91 felony counts that he is currently facing. (Trump denies wrongdoing.)

"We have a long way to go on that, George ... I understand that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in this process," Lankford said.