- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 30, 2019

House Democrats unveiled new legislation Tuesday designed to stymie President Trump’s wall building national emergency plans, attaching the provisions to the annual veterans affairs funding bill.

The move was expected, but no less aggressive for all that, with Democrats still enraged over Mr. Trump’s decision to sign the 2019 spending bills, which included only a little money for wall building, then to declare a national emergency and funnel billions more toward his campaign promise.

The Democrats’ counterpunch comes as Mr. Trump signaled another spending fight over the ongoing surge of migrant children and families at the border.

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Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan told Congress the administration this week will send up an emergency budget request for more money in 2019 to deal with the overwhelming numbers of people jumping the border.

“Given the scale of what we are facing, we will exhaust our resources before the end of this fiscal year,” Mr. McAleenan told the House Appropriations Committee.

He said the new request will include money to better house, feed and provide medical care for the thousands of children and families being caught at the border each day.

He also said the financial request will be quickly followed by a legislative package from the White House proposing changes to the law to allow for faster hearings and speedier deportations of children and families who don’t have valid asylum claims, but who right now are allowed to game the system to gain a foothold here.

Together, the White House’s proposals and House Democrats’ anti-wall legislation will create a series of new flash points on immigration.

Just a few months ago, when the border numbers weren’t as bad, the same fight over wall money and the surge of illegal immigration sent the White House and Congress spiraling into the longest government shutdown in history.

Democrats have belatedly acknowledged a crisis on the border, but they disagree with Mr. Trump’s description of the migrants, and object to his solutions for better enforcement.

They argue for more lawyers and judges, as well as nation building in the three Central American countries responsible for most of the flow of people.

And they are adamantly opposed to the president’s wall building plans.

Congress ended the shutdown by approving just $1.375 billion for border barrier money in 2019.

Mr. Trump’s emergency declaration then triggered access to nearly $7 billion more, taken from a Treasury Department forfeiture fund, a Pentagon drug interdiction fund and military construction money.

House Democrats’ new bill Tuesday would claw back that military construction money.

“This year’s funding bill makes tremendous investments in our veterans and military families, rebuilds our national security infrastructure, and soundly rejects President Trump’s attempt to steal funds from our armed services to pay for a nativist, border wall boondoggle,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the subcommittee that oversees military construction and veterans spending.

The White House is bound to oppose that move, raising the prospect of another partial government shutdown looming later this year if a deal can’t be struck.

Mr. Trump may have an easier time winning approval of his emergency money for better facilities for immigrant families living in the U.S. illegally.

Those facilities were designed in the 1990s when the flow of people was chiefly Mexican men, who could be processed and returned to Mexico within hours of capture.

But the flow now is chiefly families and unaccompanied children from Central America who, because of ill-fitting laws and a court’s ruling, often cannot be quickly deported.

That means they can remain for days in those border facilities that weren’t designed for holding them, and because there are no facilities nor the ability to detain them in the long term, they are then released, where they disappear into the shadows.

Mr. McAleenan said he wants to remove the chain link dividers — critics call them cages — that are used to delineate different holding areas, and to move to “soft-sided facilities.”

“We’re going to have partitions that are more appropriate in terms of appearance as we protect families in our custody. But we’re also going to ensure that the transportation flow, both the ability to securely move people in and out of the facility is improved, as well as the shower facilities there,” he said.

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