RELEASE: CAP Lays Out Ground Rules for DHS Spending Debate and Proposes Real Border Improvements—Not Harm to Immigrant Communities

Washington, D.C. — In a new column, the Center for American Progress establishes reasonable ground rules for the conference committee negotiations—lines that must not be crossed and areas for meaningful investment. 

First and foremost, the terms for debate should include reasserting Congress’ power of the purse. Congress must put an end to the manipulation of the budget process by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has allowed the immigrant detention system to grow unchecked. Second, Congress should make clear the president cannot declare a phony national emergency to circumvent Congress and misuse funds to build a wall and that no funds may be used to seize state, tribal, or private property for that purpose. Finally, the negotiations should not force the country into yet another shutdown by adding poison pill policy riders (such as attacks on the asylum system and protections for kids) that Congress has already rejected on multiple occasions.

Likewise, the committee must reject measures that would cause further harm to immigrant communities, including funding for additional detention beds; increasing the number of Border Patrol agents or ICE officers; weakening hiring requirements; or building an unpopular and unnecessary wall.

Instead, the final bill should make smart, evidence-based border investments, such as hiring more immigration judges to deal with a crushing backlog of cases; investing in technology and infrastructure at ports-of-entry (POEs); mandating necessary health screenings and medical care at POEs and Border Patrol stations to prevent further deaths of children; funding to tackle the root causes pushing migrants out of Central America; and protecting the asylum system. Importantly, these investments should not increase the size of the already-bloated DHS budget. And while Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders absolutely cannot be treated as hostages to be exchanged for a range of anti-immigrant provisions, the conferees should nevertheless keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and TPS holders remain in limbo because of the actions of the administration and need permanent protections.

“President Donald Trump drove the country into a damaging but pointless partial government shutdown, pretending that his demand for a politically necessary but wildly unpopular wall was necessary to achieve border security,” said Tom Jawetz, vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress. “The conference committee has the opportunity to advance legislation that makes meaningful, evidence-based improvements along the border without causing further harm to immigrant communities and people seeking humanitarian protections. Furthermore, Congress must assert control over an administration that regularly uses budgetary tricks to undermine Congress’ power of the purse and threatens to illegally raid other government accounts in order to build a wall pursuant to an emergency declaration.”

Click here to read: “What Should and Should Not Be in Any Homeland Security Funding Deal” by Tom Jawetz, Lia Parada, and Philip E. Wolgin

For more information or to speak with an expert on this topic, please contact Rafael Medina at rjmedina@americanprogress.org or 202.478.5313.