Deal on bor­der wall is reached

Ne­go­tia­tors agree ‘in prin­ci­ple’ to avoid an­other shut­down

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By An­drew Tay­lor and Alan Fram

WASH­ING­TON — Con­gres­sional ne­go­tia­tors an­nounced an agree­ment late Mon­day to pre­vent a gov­ern­ment shut­down and fi­nance con­struc­tion of new bar­ri­ers along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, over­com­ing a late-stage hang-up over im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment is­sues that had threat­ened to scut­tle the talks.

Repub­li­cans were des­per­ate to avoid an­other bruis­ing shut­down. They ten­ta­tively agreed to far less money for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bor­der wall than the White House’s $5.7 bil­lion wish list, set­tling for a fig­ure of about $1.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior con­gres­sional aide.

“We reached an agree­ment in prin­ci­ple,” said Se­nate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Rich-

ard Shelby, R-Ala., ap­pear­ing with a bi­par­ti­san group of House and Se­nate law­mak­ers who con­curred.

“Our staffs are just work­ing out the de­tails,” said House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­woman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

De­tails won’t be of­fi­cially re­leased un­til Tues­day, but the pact came in time to al­le­vi­ate any threat of a sec­ond par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down this week­end.

Shelby had ear­lier pulled the plug on the talks over Demo­cratic de­mands to limit im­mi­grant de­ten­tions by fed­eral au­thor­i­ties, but Democrats yielded ground on that is­sue in a fresh round of talks on Mon­day.

Asked if Trump would back the deal, Shelby said, “We be­lieve from our deal­ings with them and the lat­i­tude they’ve given us, they will sup­port it. We cer­tainly hope so.”

Trump trav­eled to El Paso, Texas, for a cam­paign-style rally Mon­day night fo­cused on im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der is­sues. He has been adamant that Con­gress ap­prove money for a wall along the Mex­i­can bor­der, though he no longer re­peats his 2016 mantra that Mex­ico will pay for it.

Democrats car­ried more lever­age into the talks af­ter best­ing Trump on the 35-day shut­down but showed flex­i­bil­ity in hopes on win­ning Trump’s sig­na­ture. Af­ter yield­ing on bor­der bar­ri­ers, Democrats fo­cused on re­duc­ing fund­ing for de­ten­tion beds to curb what they see as un­nec­es­sar­ily harsh en­force­ment by Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, or ICE.

The bor­der de­bate got most of the at­ten­tion, but it’s just part of a ma­jor spend­ing mea­sure to fund a bevy of Cab­i­net de­part­ments. A col­lapse of the ne­go­ti­a­tions could im­peril bud­get talks go­ing for­ward that are re­quired to pre­vent steep spend­ing cuts to the Pen­tagon and do­mes­tic agen­cies.

The ne­go­ti­a­tions hit a rough patch Sun­day amid a dis­pute over curb­ing ICE, the fed­eral agency that Repub­li­cans see as an em­blem of tough im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies and Democrats ac­cuse of of­ten go­ing too far.

A House Demo­cratic aide said Repub­li­cans had al­ready agreed to fund­ing cuts that would re­quire ICE to ramp down the num­ber of de­ten­tion beds to a range of 34,000-38,500 by the end of the year. ICE cur­rently de­tains about 49,000 im­mi­grants on av­er­age per day.

But a pro­posal to cap at 16,500 the num­ber of de­tainees caught in ar­eas away from the bor­der — a limit Democrats say is aimed at pre­vent­ing over­reach by the agency — ran into its own Repub­li­can wall.

“ICE is be­ing asked to ig­nore the laws that Con­gress has al­ready passed,” said agency Deputy Di­rec­tor Matt Al­bence on a me­dia call or­ga­nized by the White House.

Ac­cord­ing to ICE fig­ures, 66 per­cent of the nearly 159,000 im­mi­grants it re­ported de­tain­ing last year were pre­vi­ously con­victed of crimes. Re­flect­ing the two ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dif­fer­ing pri­or­i­ties, in 2016 un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, around 110,000 im­mi­grants were de­tained and 86 per­cent had crim­i­nal records.

Few con­vic­tions that im­mi­grants de­tained last year had on their records were for vi­o­lent crimes. The most com­mon were for driv­ing while in­tox­i­cated, drugs, pre­vi­ous im­mi­gra­tion con­vic­tions and traf­fic of­fenses.

Trump met Mon­day af­ter­noon with top ad­vis­ers in the Oval Of­fice to dis­cuss the ne­go­ti­a­tions. He soft­ened his rhetoric on the wall but ratch­eted it up when al­lud­ing to the de­ten­tion beds is­sue.

“We can call it any­thing. We’ll call it bar­ri­ers, we’ll call it what­ever they want,” Trump said. “But now it turns out not only don’t they want to give us money for a wall, they don’t want to give us the space to de­tain mur­der­ers, crim­i­nals, drug deal­ers, hu­man smug­glers.”

The re­cent shut­down left more than 800,000 gov­ern­ment work­ers with­out pay­checks, forced post­pone­ment of the State of the Union ad­dress and sent Trump’s poll num­bers tum­bling.

As sup­port in his own party be­gan to splin­ter, Trump sur­ren­dered af­ter the shut­down hit 35 days, agree­ing to the cur­rent tem­po­rary re­open­ing with­out get­ting money for the wall.

The pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers have sug­gested that Trump could use ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers to di­vert money from the fed­eral bud­get for wall con­struc­tion, though he could face chal­lenges in Con­gress or the courts.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ar­rives for a rally in El Paso, Texas on Mon­day.

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