- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The massive new spending bill released Wednesday will force Homeland Security to cut the number of detention beds it has available to hold illegal immigrants for the rest of this year.

The bill also rejects President Trump’s requests for 1,000 new deportation officers and 500 new Border Patrol agents — though it does add 328 officers to man the ports of entry.

Lawmakers did agree to $1.3 billion for border fencing, delivering a small downpayment on Mr. Trump’s demand for a border wall. But there, too, the numbers are not what the White House had sought, with just 33 miles of the border gaining new fencing. Another 14 miles that currently have a barriers will get a second layer of fencing, and 48 miles of existing barriers will be replaced.

Mr. Trump is also specifically banned from using any of the designs from his just-completed border wall competition, and must instead use existing versions he’s criticized.

Democrats, despite defeating most of Mr. Trump’s big funding requests, said they still felt like they’d given up too much.

“While the bill rejects the administration’s request for tens of billions for a border wall, does not fund the president’s deportation force, and requires Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to reduce the number of detention beds currently in use, the amount provided is nonetheless a waste of money and contrary to our national character,” said Rep. Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

On detention beds, ICE has been running at an average of 40,761 through the first five months of the fiscal year. The bill trims that number by hundreds of beds, meaning ICE will have to cut down on the number of people in can hold for deportation.

The exact count is in dispute. Republicans said the cut will total nearly 250 fewer beds, while Democrats said it will be a cut of more than 400 beds. Either way, it’s far fewer than the 48,000 beds Mr. Trump had sought this year.

Republicans claimed victory anyway, with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders touting “more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall.”

The numbers in the bill described by both Democrats and Republicans actually work out to 95 miles.

The bill does not strip money from sanctuary cities, as Mr. Trump had wanted.

Instead, it suggests new restrictions on where ICE can arrest illegal immigrants, explicitly directing officers to collaborate with local law enforcement to “minimize … interference” with the locals’ own investigations.

And the bill directs Homeland Security to try to release people who come to the U.S. seeking asylum — undercutting the administration’s attempts to detain them while deciding their cases. Pro-enforcement analysts has said detention was a critical step to trying to stop the surge of asylum-seekers that have overwhelmed border officers.


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