Washington — In a last-ditch attempt, a group of Republican and Democratic appropriators will meet Monday afternoon to try to broker a border security agreement after negotiations to avert another government shutdown stalled over the weekend.
Part of the government could close again if congressional leaders do not reach a broader budget agreement before Friday, when a stopgap spending bill will expire. Talks between a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators, largely made up of appropriators with experience on committees with oversight of Department of Homeland Security (DHS), broke down over the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) beds in detention centers — which Democrats want to cap and reduce.
“For far too long, the Trump administration has been tearing communities apart with its cruel immigration policies,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, the lead House Democratic negotiator, wrote in a statement. She argued, “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.” A government data clearinghouse run by Syracuse University notes in an analysis of ICE data that most ICE detainees have no criminal conviction and almost 75 percent have no serious convictions.
But President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have slammed Democrats for demanding a cap, accusing them of trying to hinder ICE’s ability to detain violent criminals. “The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens! This is a brand new demand. Crazy!” the president wrote on Twitter Monday morning.
Mr. Trump is holding a rally in the Texas border city of El Paso Monday night and will likely argue for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico frontier and the implementation of hardline immigration policies to address what he has called a “national security crisis” near the border.
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and a staunch White House ally, said Democrats derailed negotiations with what he branded as their “open borders” stance. “Cutting down on the number of beds which would actually force them being released into the United States — and so it’s more of an open borders policy that some Democrats have supported in the past,” he said on.
But Democrats believe the cap in detention beds would make the Trump administration prioritize deporting criminals and those who pose a threat to national security, rather than non-violent immigrants. “Claims that this proposal would allow violent criminals to be released are false,” Roybal-Allard added in her statement. “The Democrats’ proposed cap will ensure that the Trump administration adheres to congressional funding decisions and targets violent felons and other people who pose security risks for deportation, instead of pursuing reckless mass deportation policies that actually make us less safe.”
Last month, the president temporarily backed off his $5.7 billion demand for border wall funding and signed a continuing resolution to fund the government for three weeks. The short-term deal ended a 35-day stalemate in budget negotiations between the White House and lawmakers and brought a temporary reprieve to approximately 800,000 workers across nine federal departments who had been furloughed or working without pay.
Although negotiators have said they are hoping to strike a long-term agreement, they could have to settle again for a continuing resolution to prevent the government from closing.
Rebecca Kaplan, John Nolen and Alan He contributed to this report.