Monday, February 11, 2019
WASHINGTON (AP) — Budget negotiators will meet Monday to revive talks over border security issues that are central to legislation to prevent key parts of the government from shutting down on Saturday, but an air of pessimism remains after talks broke down over the weekend.
They collapsed over Democratic demands to limit the number of migrants authorities can detain, and the two sides remained separated over how much to spend on President Donald Trump’s promised border wall. A Friday midnight deadline is looming to prevent a second partial government shutdown.
Key negotiators plan to meet on Monday, Democratic and GOP aides say, but for now the mood is not hopeful.
Rising to the fore on Sunday was a related dispute over curbing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies and Democrats accuse of often going too far.
Trump blamed Democrats in the migrant detention dispute, tweeting, “The Democrats do not want us to detain, or send back, criminal aliens! This is a brand new demand. Crazy!”
The fight over ICE detentions goes to the core of each party’s view on immigration. Republicans favor rigid enforcement of immigration laws and have little interest in easing them if Democrats refuse to fund the Mexican border wall. Democrats despise the proposed wall and, in return for border security funds, want to curb what they see as unnecessarily harsh enforcement by ICE.
People involved in the talks say Democrats have proposed limiting the number of immigrants here illegally who are caught inside the U.S. — not at the border — that the agency can detain. Republicans say they don’t want that cap to apply to immigrants caught committing crimes, but Democrats do.
Democrats say they proposed their cap to force ICE to concentrate its internal enforcement efforts on dangerous immigrants, not those who lack legal authority to be in the country but are productive and otherwise pose no threat. Democrats have proposed reducing the current number of beds ICE uses to detain immigrants here illegally from 40,520 to 35,520.
But within that limit, they’ve also proposed limiting to 16,500 the number for immigrants here illegally caught within the U.S., including criminals. Republicans want no caps on the number of immigrants who’ve committed crimes who can be held by ICE.
Trump used the dispute to cast Democrats as soft on criminals.
“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!” Trump tweeted Sunday.