Brushing aside worries of spurring a new border surge, House Democrats led the push Wednesday to slash ICE funding, saying they were determined to punish the agency for “willful disregard of Congress’s role” in setting immigration priorities.
Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee also voted to undo the key Trump policies that helped solve last year’s border surge, including new standards for asylum-seekers and deals with Mexico and Central American nations that helped slow the flow of people headed north.
Rep. David Price, North Carolina Democrat, said they were intent on pushing back on “cruel and arbitrary immigration policies” they say have distorted the immigration system.
“We haven’t seen anything like this before,” he said as he led the committee in voting to roll back a half-dozen Trump policies that also included the travel ban and ICE’s list of enforcement priorities.
His proposal was adopted on a 30-22 party-line vote, adding to a bill that already cut 25% of Homeland Security’s deportation force, expanded illegal immigrants’ access to lawyers and rewrote the way U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains illegal immigrants, forcing release of tens of thousands of migrants.
The bill also blocks any new border wall money and even revokes money approved a year ago.
Republicans tried to restore money for ICE during debate in the Appropriations Committee but Democrats defeated that amendment on another 30-22 party-line vote.
The bill now moves to the whole House, though Republicans said there’s no chance President Trump would sign it.
“We absolutely must fund the agency to allow them to adequately and responsibly do those missions which are set out in law,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, the top Republican on the Homeland Security appropriations subcommittee.
While support for ICE was deeply partisan, the committee was far more unified on other areas of immigration policy, voting to expand the H-2A farm worker visa and to order the administration to issue more H-2B visas to seasonal non-agriculture workers.
Most H-2B visas have been put on hold by the administration amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the Appropriations Committee voted by voice to override that decision.
The committee also voted to block deportation of any illegal immigrant “Dreamers” enrolled in the DACA program, or hundreds of thousands of people — chiefly Central Americans — here under Temporary Protected Status.
More than 600,000 DACA recipients are already generally protected from deportation by the program, and the Supreme Court last month shot down Mr. Trump’s attempt to phase out that program. Mr. Trump has suggested he will try again.