- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Democrats’ new border security proposal would cut the number of detention beds available to hold illegal immigrants for deportation, effectively forcing Homeland Security to release more people into communities.

House Democrats detailed the plan — sans a price tag — on Wednesday, just after finishing the first round of negotiations with Republicans to try to avoid another government shutdown in two weeks.

Among their ideas are more investigators to investigate drug-smuggling, and more ankle-monitoring and counseling for illegal immigrants, but no money for President Trump’s border wall.

And the Democrats said they will cut the number of detention beds available to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold migrants awaiting deportation.

“It significantly reduces ICE detention beds,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, one of the Democrats’ negotiators.

The government is currently funded for a minimum of about 40,000 detention beds. Senate Republicans’ plan, which mirrors Mr. Trump’s proposal, calls for 52,000 detention beds.

Democrats didn’t say how much lower they would go on beds.

The House and Senate negotiators emerged from Wednesday’s first meeting to say they were hopeful of a deal — though there was little sense of a path forward, particularly on how to settle the border security disagreement.

“Let’s listen to the professionals. Let’s listen to the career people,” said Rep. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican and one of the GOP’s negotiators.

Democrats, while saying they would respect “the experts,” said the short deadline they’re operating under — government funding runs out again on Feb. 15 — means they won’t be able to do that right now.

Border Patrol agents have said they think more fencing is helpful, and Homeland Security says it’s sent plans for how and where to spend the money to Capitol Hill.

Mr. Trump has called for $5.7 billion to fund some 230 miles of new and replacement fencing.

But Democrats said that money will have to compete with other needs, such as Coast Guard equipment, which is also funded in the same Homeland Security bill that funds the Border Patrol.

“What we don’t want to do is arbitrarily make decisions that compromise other priorities,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar, California Democrat.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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