of House-Senate Conferees on Border Security Funding As Trump Escalates Threats
- First, Democrats put together a House Democratic proposal for the conference to consider that would include slight increases in funding for "smart" border security, would contain no new funding for building new miles of border wall, and would include funding for the humanitarian needs of migrants;
- Second, none of the conferees spoke out in favor of including changes in current law with respect to DREAMers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, unaccompanied alien children (UACs), and asylum that President Trump were contained at President Trump's behest in a McConnell-Shelby amendment to Emergency Disaster Assistance bill that the Senate failed to pass last week; and
- Third, the President reinforced his threat to veto legislation that does not include funding for his proposed border wall and to bypass Congress by declaring a national emergency.
"In doing so, we will expand on the $1.6 billion for border security-related programs that House Democrats have already passed in the last few weeks in other appropriations bills. That includes Improvements to ports of entry to improve security and facilitate both legal entries and trade, more immigration judges to reduce the backlog in processing immigration cases,, and assistance to Central American countries to help alleviate the situation in those countries."
Continuing, she asserted that "To further secure the border, we should focus on proven solutions, like Equipment at ports of entry to detect drugs and new technology between ports of entry to detect unauthorized crossings, more aircraft and vessels to help Homeland Security agencies patrol our land borders and U.S. waters, and resources to meet the unique humanitarian needs of migrants, especially children and families.
Lowey said that "Smart border security is not overly reliant on physical barriers, which the Trump administration has failed to demonstrate are cost effective compared to better technology and more personnel."
Vice-Chairman Shelby. In his opening statement, conference Vice-Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) expressed support for “an approach that includes technology, infrastructure, personnel and physical barriers.” Continuing, he said, “Smart technology is part of a comprehensive solution, but it is not the solution in and of itself. Cameras, sensors, drones and other smart technology highlight the gaps and vulnerabilities along our border. In short, they provide a greater awareness of exactly where our insecurities lie along the border. But smart technology alone does not actually stop anyone from crossing into the U.S. illegally. And if that is happening, our borders are not secure."
Vice-Chair Shelby asserted that “Our border patrol tells us that they need physical barriers to help them do their job. Not from coast to coast, but strategically placed where traffic is highest. Combined with technology, manpower, and other infrastructure, these strategic barriers comprise a comprehensive solution that is capable of fully securing the border. It is a commonsense, all-of-the-above solution to a problem that both parties have said for decades we need to fix.”
Shelby concluded his statement be declaring, "We are appropriators, and consistent with the proud tradition of our committees, I am confident that we will be able to reach a compromise. I hope that all stakeholders, including the President, will work in good faith to support us as we carry out our responsibilities. Together, we can secure our border and uphold our values."
The House Democratic offer also will include new funding to improve the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) unit's care for migrants in the its custody. It would expand the funding and use of an Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program run by the Department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unit, reduce the number of ICE detention beds, and require more frequent detention-facility inspections.
The proposal would bar the construction of physical barriers on wildlife refuges on the border, the only mention of such barriers.
- $98 million more than what was allocated in FY18 for 1,000 additional CBP officers.
- $25 million more for “small port of entry technologies.”
- No funding for any additional Border Patrol agents.
- $502 million “to address humanitarian concerns at the border, including medical care, more efficient transportation, food and other consumables, and to support at least one prototype temporary holding facility (72 hours or less) with better conditions and services for migrants.”
- “$400 million for border security technology procurement and deployment.”
- For U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, “$7 million above the request for additional staff in the Office of Professional Responsibility/Office of Detention Oversight to begin ramping up the number of detention facility inspections from once every three years to twice per year for each facility.”
The President escalated his response as the week wore on, all but declaring that he intends to ignore what the conferees do and, instead, declare a national emergency, commandeer funds previously appropriated for other purposes, and order the military to construct his proposed border wall using those funds.
The President teased his upcoming State of the Union Address, suggesting he may make an announcement of his plans on border wall funding and a declaration of an emergency during that speech.