FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesCongress Passes Border Funding Compromise, Concerns Remain Over Unaddressed Problems

After months of fighting, Congress passed a border supplemental bill that is leaving some on both sides of the aisle unhappy.
June 28, 2019
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On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved the Senate GOP’s version of the border supplemental by a vote of 305-102. 

The plan appropriates $4.5 billion in a bid to solve the myriad of problems occurring at America’s southern border

Apprehension numbers of illegal immigrants are “skyrocketing.” Detention centers are overcrowded. And U.S. Customs and Border Protection is overwhelmed.

Despite the crisis building up over the last few years, and bubbling over in the past few months, Congress has largely dragged its feet in addressing the issue.

Left unresolved are many of the policy matters lying at the heart of the illegal immigration and border security dispute: broken asylum laws, effective border security, sanctuary cities, and catch-and-release policies among them.

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On May 1, the Office of Budget Management formally requested $4.5 billion in funding to provide more beds for detainees, more resources for border patrol personnel, and expanded facility capacity to deal with the sheer number of people coming across. 

Notably, the request was not for border barriers or border security, but rather to provide emergency assistance and relief for the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Since the beginning of the year, House leadership — and Democrats in general — have largely ignored the issue, claiming it was a “manufactured crisis.” But recently, the posture has shifted, with many Democrats instead now raising the crisis alarm and directing the blame squarely at President Trump.

Last week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the House passed their proposed border supplemental, which differed significantly from the administration’s requested plan in that it provided no additional funding for beds or increased ICE personnel. 

For that reason, the White House issued a veto threat on the House bill with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stating that the Democrat’s bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. 

Indeed, it was as the House measure failed by a vote of 37-55 as the Senate overwhelmingly passed its own bill 84-8.

Speaker Pelosi received stark opposition to the Senate bill by the party’s progressive wing, led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who has been at the forefront of perpetuating outlandish claims about the United States operating “concentration camps” on the southern border.

Progressives argued that the Senate bill failed to sufficiently improve the conditions at border facilities and provide the necessary resources for children. The intra-party divide was so drastic this week that open warfare erupted between moderate Democrats in support of the Senate bill and progressive Democrats opposed.

As reported by Politico, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, even went so far as to call some of his moderate colleagues the “Child Abuse Caucus.”

Despite significant resistance from the progressive wing of her party, Pelosi moved forward on the Senate bill anyway. She said, “At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available.”

The Senate and House plans, however, were ultimately not all that different on the substantive question of whether the funding was consistent with White House requests.

Even a handful of House Republicans, such as Texas Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), opposed the Senate bill because in Roy’s estimation, “the border supplemental is a bandaid on a gunshot wound at best…and in binding hands of ICE, perpetuates [the] crisis.” 

Roy acknowledged that he is glad some of the requested money is going to the right places, but lamented the lack of funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bedding and the lack of policy reforms to reverse the incentives that he says continue to cause the problems.

Other Texas congressional members who voted against the Senate bill include Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX-1), Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX-29), Marc Veasey (D-TX-33), Filemon Vela (D-TX-34), and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX-35).

Indeed, the final legislation delegates significantly less money to the entities that the Trump administration believes needs it most. Specifically, the border supplemental provides $330 million less for ICE funding (intended to go for beds) and $230 million less for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The bill now moves to the President’s desk for signing just as Congress leaves town for the Independence Day break.

Regardless, the security and humanitarian crisis at the border does not appear to be going away anytime soon.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad chairing the Edmund Burke fan club.