Bor­der talks stall; shut­down looms

Dems want to limit mi­grant de­ten­tions; GOP won’t budge

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Erica Werner and Damian Paletta

WASHINGTON — The na­tion faces the real pos­si­bil­ity of another govern­ment shut­down at the end of the week, af­ter bi­par­ti­san talks aimed at avert­ing that out­come broke down in a dis­pute over im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment, law­mak­ers and aides said Sun­day.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s bor­der wall de­mands, which pre­cip­i­tated the record-long 35-day shut­down that ended late last month, were a sec­ondary is­sue in the im­passe that de­vel­oped over the week­end, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials in both par­ties.

In­stead, af­ter look­ing promis­ing for days, the del­i­cate ne­go­ti­a­tions col­lapsed over Democrats’ in­sis­tence on lim­it­ing the num­ber of unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants who can be de­tained by the U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment agency. The break­down in talks made it un­likely that law­mak­ers will be able to fi­nal­ize an agree­ment on Mon­day, as they’d hope to do so it could pass the House and Sen­ate be­fore Fri­day night’s dead­line.

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

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

There were some be­hind-thescenes ef­forts to sal­vage the talks Sun­day evening, but it was un­cer-

tain whether they would be suc­cess­ful.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment 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. There’s lit­tle ap­petite for another short-term fund­ing ex­ten­sion, but with­out some ac­tion by mid­night Feb. 15, 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, who is sched­uled to hold a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Mon­day night that’s likely to fo­cus on his de­mands for more bor­der se­cu­rity, ref­er­enced the dis­agree­ment in a tweet 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.

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 $1.3 bil­lion to $2 bil­lion — far short of the $5.7 bil­lion Trump had de­manded. The White House had be­gun to sig­nal flex­i­bil­ity on that is­sue, even though Trump would end up with much less money than he sought.

But through­out the talks, Democrats had also been fo­cused on lim­it­ing ICE’s abil­ity to de­tain unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants, which has be­come a ma­jor is­sue for the party be­cause of their op­po­si­tion to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ag­gres­sive de­ten­tion tac­tics. 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, which they said is around the level of in­te­rior de­ten­tions in the fi­nal years of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, although it’s fewer than the num­ber cur­rently de­tained un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s en­force­ment poli­cies.

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

But Democrats said that would make the cap tooth­less, be­cause it would al­low ICE to round up nu­mer­ous people who don’t have crim­i­nal records and hold an un­lim­ited num­ber of people who, in some cases, 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 lawabid­ing 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, DN.Y., have pro­posed en­tirely cut­ting fund­ing to ICE.

Democrats on the bi­par­ti­san ne­go­ti­at­ing com­mit­tee have re­sisted those de­mands. But Repub­li­cans quickly seized on the new dis­pute over de­ten­tion beds to try 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, RS.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 of­fend­ers who come across our bor­der. He won’t do that.”

The fight over how many im­mi­grants can be de­tained at once be­came ex­tremely prob­lem­atic in re­cent days, just as the White House be­gan sig­nal­ing to ne­go­tia­tors that it would be more flex­i­ble on how much money Con­gress ap­pro­pri­ated for a wall along the Mex­ico bor­der.

White House of­fi­cials have be­come in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent that by declar­ing a na­tional emer­gency, Trump will be able to re­di­rect bil­lions of dol­lars in other fed­eral fund­ing to be used for a wall or bar­ri­ers. One sce­nario they had pre­pared for was for Con­gress to pass a bill ap­pro­pri­at­ing some money for bor­der se­cu­rity and then use the na­tional emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion to loosen even more funds.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is un­likely to get the bor­der wall fund­ing he sought in the bor­der com­mit­tee’s com­pro­mise.

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