- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A key House panel voted Wednesday to roll back the administration’s tough new asylum policy and to put checks on President Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy, underscoring growing bipartisan unease with Mr. Trump’s attempts to stem the flow of illegal immigration.

The House Appropriations Committee did approve about $5 billion in money to continue building Mr. Trump’s border wall, and approved adding thousands of detention beds to the government’s deportation arsenal as part of the 2019 homeland security spending bill.

But the vote to roll back the new asylum policy could be a serious hurdle for Mr. Trump, who has accused immigrants who crossed illegally into the U.S. of gaming the asylum system.

Asylum claims have skyrocketed as immigrants figured out making a claim — even if it would eventually be rejected — was a way to gain a foothold in the U.S.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, looking to rein in the abuse, issued a recent ruling that tightened the circle of people who can lodge asylum claims, potentially excluding those who faced gang violence or domestic abuse that didn’t involve actual government persecution.



Rep. David Price, North Carolina Democrat, offered an amendment Thursday to prevent the Sessions ruling from taking effect, saying he was trying to restore protections to refugees.

His amendment passed on a voice vote.

“Today marks a significant step in reversing one of the administration’s most egregious immigration policies,” Mr. Price said.

Mr. Price won public support from Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas, a key Republican, who said victims of domestic violence should be treated with compassion regardless of where they come from and that the federal government should at least be able to look at individual circumstances.

But Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, said the debate might be more relevant for a Justice Department spending bill, since Mr. Sessions was the one who first announced the policy.

“Judges still have some flexibility to make these decisions, but for us to alter the law of the United States by an action of this committee I think is wrong,” he said.

The committee also demanded more cooperation with Congress on cleaning up the mess surrounding Mr. Trump’s zero-tolerance border policy and the separation of families who crossed into the U.S. illegally.

Lawmakers adopted an amendment by Mr. Yoder to require an inspector general’s report on the government’s efforts to reunify families.

The amendment also says siblings should be placed in the same facility when possible and tries to guarantee members of Congress can inspect facilities where children are being held.

The committee also adopted an amendment offered by Mr. Yoder and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, California Democrat, which makes more funding available for mental health services for children being held in federal custody.

And the panel approved language to hinder deportation of “Dreamers” who are in the U.S. under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and to prevent the shackling of pregnant women in federal custody.

The committee did back Mr. Trump on his border wall, allocating the $5 billion, and it approved an amendment from Rep. Robert Aderholt, Alabama Republican, that says federal funds can’t be used to perform abortions for women in ICE custody.

The Trump administration has argued that federal law already prohibits them from paying for abortions except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger, but a federal court has ordered the government to facilitate elective abortions for Unaccompanied Alien Children, arguing the UACs have a constitutional right to the procedure.

Democrats failed in bids to prevent immigration authorities from arresting people within 1,000 feet of schools or courthouses — government officials say that would create sanctuary locations in most big cities — and to try to block the increase in detention beds to hold future deportees.

Passage of the homeland security bill means the House and Senate appropriations committees have now approved all 12 of their annual funding bills for next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The full House has passed six of its 2019 spending bills and the Senate has passed three.

Lawmakers are trying to get all of them done before Sept. 30 to head off a potential shutdown showdown and to avoid the need for another stopgap funding bill, though the House starts its five-week summer break next week and won’t return until after Labor Day.

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