Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Status of Border Security Funding Negotiations

By No Labels
February 11, 2019 | Blog

Lawmakers have been working behind the scenes to reach an agreement on border security and other  immigration issues  that remain a stumbling block to avert another government shutdown this Friday. Here are five facts on the state of play.

Seventeen members of Congress have been tasked with negotiating a compromise on border-security funding to avoid another government shutdown.

The group is composed of 10 representatives and seven senators – drawn from both parties – all of whom serve on their respective appropriations committees It is led by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and includes Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL). In addition, Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the ranking members on both Appropriations Committees are serving important roles on the panel. Other notable negotiators include Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), who helped broker a key provision on border security in a massive overhaul of the immigration system that passed the Senate in 2013, but was ultimately unable to get through the House.

Democrats’ delivered their first offer first offer on February 7

Last Thursday, Democrats delivered their opening offer, which included money for more customs agents, technology, and humanitarian relief, but lacked any funding for a wall. Specifically, the deal allocated $675 million for scanners at points of entry, $502 million for “humanitarian concerns at the border,” and $400 million in border-security technology and 1,000 new customs agents. The offer received a cold reception from many Republican lawmakers. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), an ally of President Trump  who has been heavily involved with immigration negotiations in the past, tweeted, “House Democrats’ border barrier/wall offer is PATHETIC.”

Talks stalled over the weekend as negotiators were caught up on border wall funding and ICE detention beds

Sources close to the talks indicated that negotiators hit a significant roadblock over the weekend when Democrats pushed to cap the number of beds in ICE detention centers at 16,500. They argue that such a move would force ICE to focus on detaining illegal immigrants with a criminal background instead of broad sweeps designed to capture undocumented immigrants who otherwise are law-abiding residents. In addition, lawmakers are still divided over border wall funding, the central issue in the previous 35-day shutdown. However, despite the current impasse, there is still hope that a deal can be reached before the Friday deadline. On Sunday, Sen. Shelby, one of the key negotiators, gave lawmakers a 50-50 chance of striking a deal.

The top four lawmakers on the House and Senate appropriations committees are expected to meet Monday afternoon in hopes of pushing the negotiations over the finish line

Sens. Shelby and Leahy, as well as Reps. Lowey and Granger will meet Monday afternoon to try to break the stalemate. Talks are expected to focus on capping the number of beds in ICE detention centers. However, it is unclear whether either side will be willing to budge. Shortly before the meeting was scheduled, Sen. Shelby released a letter from sheriff’s groups warning against capping the number of ICE detention beds, an indication that he was hardening his stance on the issue.

If the 17-member panel is unable to reach an agreement by February 15 – Friday – large portions of the federal government could shut down again.

Hundreds of thousands of government workers are watching the negotiations with apprehension, as they fear another prolonged shutdown. While President Trump previously accepted a short-term deal that did not include wall funding in order to end the 35-day shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, he has indicated he would be open to once again shuttering the government, stating in an  interview with The Wall Street Journal that another shutdown was “certainly an option.”

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