Top Democrats said this week that they won’t insist on forcing a solution for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” as part of this month’s spending fight.
But another fight over adding more detention beds to the system is a major sticking point, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.
Republicans are writing an “omnibus” spending bill to keep the government open for the rest of the fiscal year. They’re racing a March 23 deadline, which is when existing funding runs out, and they’re eager to avoid any hiccups after two brief government shutdowns.
The shutdown in January was orchestrated by Democrats who had said they would not approve any bill that didn’t grant a full pathway to citizenship to illegal immigrant “Dreamers.” They relented on that fight.
Some immigrant-rights activists have urged them to use the March deadline to make another stand, but top Democrats in both the House and Senate said this week they didn’t expect that.
“I think the omnibus needs to be considered on its own merits,” House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said this week.
Mrs. Pelosi agreed Thursday, but said “poison pill” add-ons Republicans are proposing could sour the spending debate, as could disagreements over levels of funding for GOP priorities such as detention beds.
“Even if the Dreamers never existed, in the Homeland Security piece [of the omnibus bill] there is suggested language that we could never live with,” she said.
The Trump administration had sought more than 51,000 detention beds this year. The House had envisioned 44,000 beds, while the Senate rejected both of those numbers.
Through the first four months of the fiscal year the average daily population was about 40,700.
The need for more beds comes as the administration is grappling with higher levels of illegal immigration, which has rebounded after a record dip during President Trump’s first months in office.
The Border Patrol nabbed more than 26,600 illegal immigrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in February, up from about 18,200 during the same month last year.
Still, February’s numbers were only a slight uptick compared to January, suggesting that an “amnesty surge” some analysts had predicted in the wake of the Senate’s immigration debate has not yet materialized.
Any increased spending by Congress on immigration enforcement is controversial right now, because it’s seen as an embrace of Mr. Trump’s enforcement-focused policies.
The president continued to press for action Thursday, taking time in a meeting with his Cabinet to blast sanctuary cities and threaten to withhold federal money from them.
He also said he’s looking to see whether Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf can be punished for her warning last month alerting illegal immigrants to impending sweeps by federal authorities.
Mr. Trump called her move “a disgrace” and said it put law enforcement agents at risk.
“It’s something we’re looking at with respect to her, individually,” Mr. Trump said.
Ms. Schaaf’s office has not responded to several inquires from The Washington Times, but on Twitter she has insisted she acted within the law when she alerted the San Francisco Bay Area to an enforcement action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
More than 200 criminal illegal immigrants were nabbed, but about 800 others targeted by ICE escaped.
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