An­other shut­down looms as bor­der talks break down over im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and Se­ung Min Kim

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 record­long 35day 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 to­day, as they’d hope to do so that 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 be­hindthe-scenes ef­forts to sal­vage the talks Sun­day evening, but it was un­cer­tain whether they would be suc­cess­ful.

The Home­land Se­cu­rity

Depart­ment along with State, Agri­cul­ture, Com­merce and sev­eral other fed­eral agen­cies are 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 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.

Trump, who is sched­uled to hold a rally in El Paso, Texas, tonight 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!” he 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, and the en­hanced fenc­ing or other bar­ri­ers agreed to by Congress would fall short of the 200-plus miles of steel walls he wanted.

But through­out the talks, Democrats also fo­cused on lim­it­ing ICE’s abil­ity to de­tain unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants, which has be­come a ma­jor is­sue for the party be­cause of its 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 law-abid­ing im­mi­grants who are con­tribut­ing to our coun­try,” Roy­bal-Al­lard said in a state­ment.

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