Congress on the Cusp of a Border Deal

Dems agree to give some funding for the construction of a physical border barrier.

Thomas Gallatin · Feb. 12, 2019

Monday night, following early fears that a second partial government shutdown may be unavoidable, lawmakers emerged from closed-door meetings announcing that they had reached an agreement … in principle. The deal includes $1.38 billion in funding for 55 miles of new physical border-barrier construction, which is well below the $5.7 billion in funding for 230 miles of barrier that President Donald Trump had requested. Yet it is clearly a compromise wherein Democrats finally conceded to give some funding for the border barrier they had labeled “immoral.”

Fortunately, Republicans were able to block the Democrats’ effort to reduce and place limits on the number of detention beds available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for holding illegal aliens. This final sticking point was an attempt by Democrats to secure greater restraints on ICE, an agency they have increasingly targeted, with some Democrats even openly advocating its abolition.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasn’t about to concede to Democrats on these limits. “This is a poison pill that no administration — not this one, not the previous one — would or should ever accept,” he said. “House Democrats want to set a limit on how many criminal aliens our government can detain.”

Prior to the agreement, Trump argued, “If we cut detention space, we are cutting loose dangerous criminals into our country.” He also pledged, “I will never sign a bill that forces the mass release of criminals into this country.”

As we have noted before, any funding for the construction of a border barrier is a win for Trump, and while the $1.38 billion is far from what is needed, it is the proverbial crack in the door that Trump will continue to lean on. Some conservatives have blasted the deal for not allocating enough funding, which is true, but this needs to be weighed in light of the overall long-term battle. Small steps forward still move the ball in the right direction. If Congress passes this spending deal, it is likely Trump will sign it.

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