Bor­der se­cu­rity talks stall, risk shut­down Path to keep­ing govern­ment open un­clear


WASHINGTON — Con­gres­sional ef­forts to reach a bor­der se­cu­rity deal broke down Sun­day, which law­mak­ers and aides said put the na­tion at risk of an­other par­tial fed­eral govern­ment shut­down at the end of the week.

Democrats are in­sist­ing on lim­it­ing the num­ber of mi­grants who can be de­tained by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency, and that was the key is­sue in the im­passe that de­vel­oped over the week­end, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials in both par­ties. Repub­li­cans see the fed­eral agency as an em­blem of tough im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, and Democrats have ac­cused it of of­ten go­ing too far.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­mands for a bor­der wall were a sec­ondary is­sue, the of­fi­cials said.

The break­down in talks made it un­likely that law­mak­ers will be able to fi­nal­ize an agree­ment to­day, which would have given enough time for the deal to pass the House and Sen­ate be­fore the Fri­day night dead­line set by the pres­i­dent.

“I think the talks are stalled right now,” Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Richard Shelby of Alabama, the lead Repub­li­can ne­go­tia­tor, said on Fox News Sun­day. “I’m not con­fi­dent we’re go­ing to get there.”

Demo­cratic ne­go­tia­tors held a con­fer­ence call Sun­day morn­ing to dis­cuss op­tions, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­cratic

● aide, but they did not set­tle on a fi­nal de­ci­sion on how to move for­ward. An­other short­term spend­ing bill could pre­vent a lapse in fund­ing on Fri­day, though law­mak­ers have ex­pressed re­luc­tance at punting again on a fi­nal agree­ment.

Still, Shelby and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont. and a mem­ber of the ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee, said Sun­day that they had not given up.

Law­mak­ers on the 17-mem­ber con­fer­ence com­mit­tee had been trad­ing of­fers over how much money could go to bar­ri­ers along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der, and were look­ing at be­tween $1.3 bil­lion and $2 bil­lion for en­hanced fenc­ing or other bar­ri­ers — far short of the $5.7 bil­lion and 200-plus miles of steel walls Trump had wanted.

Act­ing White House chief of staff Mick Mul­vaney, in ap­pear­ances on NBC’s Meet the Press and Fox

News Sun­day, said “you ab­so­lutely can­not” elim­i­nate the pos­si­bil­ity of an­other shut­down if a deal is not reached over the wall and other bor­der mat­ters.

“You can­not take a shut­down off the ta­ble, and you can­not take $5.7 [bil­lion] off the ta­ble,” Mul­vaney told NBC. “If you end up some­place in the mid­dle, yeah, then what you prob­a­bly see

is the pres­i­dent say, ‘Yeah, OK, and I’ll go find the money some­place else.’”

The stale­mate left the path for­ward to keep­ing the govern­ment open un­clear.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, along with State, Agri­cul­ture, Com­merce and a num­ber of other fed­eral agen­cies, are cur­rently op­er­at­ing on a stop­gap spend­ing bill that Trump signed Jan. 25. With­out some ac­tion by mid­night Fri­day, those agen­cies will run out of money and be­gin to shut down again.

An­other fund­ing lapse could af­fect many Amer­i­cans within days, be­cause one of the agen­cies that would go un­funded dur­ing the shut­down is the IRS, which is pro­cess­ing tax re­turns for mil­lions of peo­ple. Dur­ing the 35-day shut­down that be­gan in late De­cem­ber, thou­sands of IRS of­fi­cials re­fused to show up for work with­out pay, back­log­ging the tax fil­ing process.

The pres­i­dent ref­er­enced the dis­agree­ment in a tweet on Sun­day.

“I don’t think the Dems on the Bor­der Com­mit­tee are be­ing al­lowed by their lead­ers to make a deal. They are of­fer­ing very lit­tle money for the des­per­ately needed Bor­der Wall & now, out of the blue, want a cap on con­victed vi­o­lent felons to be held in de­ten­tion!” the pres­i­dent wrote.


Through­out the talks, Democrats had been fo­cused on lim­it­ing Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment’s abil­ity to de­tain mi­grants, which has be­come a ma­jor is­sue for the party be­cause of their op­po­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ten­tion tac­tics.

Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment has reg­u­larly ex­ceeded the cur­rent quota set by Congress on im­mi­grant de­ten­tion, which is 40,520 beds — although that fig­ure is treated gen­er­ally as a floor, not a ceil­ing.

As of Sun­day, a to­tal of 48,747 peo­ple were in Im­mi­gra­tion

and Cus­toms En­force­ment cus­tody, ac­cord­ing to an agency of­fi­cial.

The Democrats’ pro­posal in­cluded a new limit on de­ten­tion beds for im­mi­grants picked up not at the bor­der, but in the in­te­rior of the coun­try. Democrats wanted to cap that num­ber at 16,500 peo­ple, which they said is around the level of in­te­rior de­ten­tions in the fi­nal years of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Repub­li­cans want to ex­clude a range of mi­grants from the cap, in­clud­ing peo­ple con­victed of or charged with a va­ri­ety of crimes, rang­ing from vi­o­lent felonies to mis­de­meanor drug of­fenses.

Democrats said that would make the cap mean­ing­less be­cause Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment, pop­u­larly called ICE, could hold thou­sands of peo­ple with­out crim­i­nal records, in ad­di­tion to an un­lim­ited num­ber of peo­ple who may only have been charged with mis­de­meanors.

Rep. Lu­cille Roy­bal-Al­lard, D-Calif., a mem­ber of the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, de­fended the Demo­cratic po­si­tion on bed space.

“A cap on ICE de­ten­tion beds will force the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to pri­or­i­tize de­por­ta­tion for crim­i­nals and peo­ple who pose real se­cu­rity threats, not law-abid­ing im­mi­grants who are con­tribut­ing to our coun­try,” Roy­bal-Al­lard said in a state­ment.

Democrats, newly in con­trol of the House, have faced pres­sure from some lib­er­als in their ranks to draw a much harder line in their ne­go­ti­a­tions over the bor­der. Lib­er­als in­clud­ing Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, D-N.Y., have pro­posed en­tirely cut­ting fund­ing to Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment.

Repub­li­cans quickly seized on the new dis­pute over de­ten­tion beds to lump all Democrats in with the most lib­eral el­e­ments in the party.

“Now, ap­par­ently, not only is it enough they want to abol­ish ICE. They want to abol­ish the bed spa­ces avail­able to the coun­try to house vi­o­lent of­fend­ers, so they can be held

and de­ported,” Sen. Lind­sey Graham, R-S.C., said on Fox News Chan­nel. “I prom­ise you this. Don­ald Trump is not go­ing to sign any bill that re­duces the num­ber of bed spa­ces avail­able to hold vi­o­lent of­fend- ers who come across our bor­der. He can’t do that. He won’t do that, and you can take that to the bank.”

Even though there is less than one week left to com­plete a deal, ne­go­tia­tors still have time to work some­thing out, and they note that dead­lines of­ten force leg­is­la­tors to com­pro­mise.

“There are bumps in the road, but as long as we stay fo­cused in a bi­par­ti­san way, bi­cam­eral way, to get this done, I’m hope­ful we can get it done,” Tester said on Fox News Sun­day. “Is it a done deal? No it isn’t, and we could end up in a train wreck, it’s hap­pened be­fore. But I don’t think any­body has an ap­petite for a govern­ment shut­down, and I think ev­ery­body wants to make sure our bor­ders are se­cure.”

Law­mak­ers held out the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump could find some way to for­tify bor­der se­cu­rity and build some struc­tures with­out re­sort­ing to a prece­dent-set­ting emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion. Mul­vaney said the pres­i­dent had asked him to “comb through the law” and “go find money in any place we could” to fully fund a wall.

“There’s pots of money where pres­i­dents, all pres­i­dents, have ac­cess to with­out a na­tional emer­gency,” Mul­vaney said on NBC.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, Se­ung Min Kim and Feli­cia Son­mez of The Washington Post; Jonathan Lemire, Alan Fram, Hope Yen, An­drew Tay­lor, Lisa Mas­caro and Julie Walker of The As­so­ci­ated Press; and by Emily Cochrane, Mag­gie Haber­man and Eric Sch­mitt of The New York Times.





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