Hispanic Democrats drew a red line Wednesday in budget negotiations, saying they cannot support any year-end spending bill unless it reduces the government’s ability to detain illegal immigrants ahead of deportation.
The Democrats also said they want to eliminate all money for the border wall — not the $5 billion President Trump is seeking, nor even the $1.6 billion that Senate Democrats have said they’re willing to spend.
“We urge the Committee to provide zero funding for the border wall,” the chair and vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a letter to GOP leaders. “Five billion dollars is a waste of taxpayer funding to build an unnecessary and operationally ineffective wall at our southern border.”
The demands are unlikely to make much of a difference in the current spending debate, given that Republicans hold majorities in both chambers. But the letter does signal complications next year, when Democrats will control the House and may have to rely on the Hispanic Democrats’ votes to pass spending bills.
The wall fight has been the most visible part of negotiations ahead of the Dec. 7 deadline for funding for the rest of fiscal year 2019 government operations.
But the debate over how many detention beds to have is more important when it comes to effectiveness of U.S. immigration enforcement.
Analysts say the key to deporting migrants is to be able to hold them while their cases are pending. Releasing them means most will disappear into the shadows, making it nearly impossible to roust them.
Federal law currently calls for a mandatory minimum of 40,000 beds a day, on average. The government is reportedly running higher than that, at perhaps 44,000 beds right now.
The Hispanic Democrats said they want to see alternatives to detention instead of more beds.