Democrats have hoodwinked Republicans on the border compromise legislation that would end the dispute over funding the government. That’s the most charitable interpretation of what has happened. It’s possible that the Republicans who agreed to the deal know about the “landmines” that will undermine the Trump administration and simply don’t care.
Mark Krikorian blows the whistle. He writes:
The bill is disappointing in many respects, but if it had been as advertised earlier, it might have been tolerable.
But my fears that senators Durbin and Leahy would trick the Republican conferees (none of whom knows the first thing about immigration policy) were realized. Standing out among the many distasteful provisions are two poison pills that I hope the Republican committee members either didn’t know about or didn’t understand.
What are the “poison pills”? The first is a restriction on where the fence can be built. Krikorian points out:
[T]he bill allows the fencing to be built only in the Rio Grande Valley Sector in South Texas. It’s surely needed there, but real barriers are also needed elsewhere, such as the parts of the Arizona or New Mexico borders where there’s only vehicle fencing.
Why did the Democrats insist on this limitation? Krikorian explains:
The bill states:
Prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers within the city limits of any city or census designated place…Department of Homeland Security and the local elected officials of such a city or census designated place shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city or the census designated place.
In other words, local governments would have an effective veto over whether barriers would be constructed. And which party controls all local government in South Texas?. . .Rio Grande City is the least Democratic community in the area, and even there voters supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 by more than three to one.
So will any fencing at all be built with funds authorized by this bill? Krikorian is doubtful:
Add to [the geographical restriction] the bill’s prohibition on border barriers in a range of public parks and spaces — such as the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, La Lomita Historical Park, or the National Butterfly Center — and the 55 miles of new fencing supposedly provided for in the bill might never get built at all.
Krikorian considers the second “poison pill” even worse:
Section 224 states:
None of the funds provided by this act…may be used by the Secretary of Homeland Security to place in detention, remove, refer for a decision whether to initiate removal proceedings, or initiate removal proceedings against a sponsor, potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien child.
In other words, this would mean that ICE cannot detain or remove anyone who has effectively any relationship with an “unaccompanied” minor — either because they’re sponsors, in the same household as sponsors, or even just “potential sponsors” (or in the household of potential sponsors!) of such a child.
There’s already a huge incentive to bring a child with you if you’re planning to infiltrate the border, because kids can’t be held more than 20 days, according to the Flores agreement, and we don’t separate parents from kids, so if you sneak across with a kid in tow, you’re released into the U.S.
The new provision would create an incentive for illegal aliens already here to order up kids from Central America as human shields against deportation. After all, 80 percent of the sponsors of unaccompanied children are in the country illegally in the first place — usually parents or other relatives paying criminal gangs to bring the kids to the U.S., knowing that the likelihood that they’ll be repatriated is virtually nil.
What a disaster. Republican negotiators have disgraced themselves.
What is to be done? I agree with Krikorian:
The president should make clear his earlier willingness to sign the package was based on the summaries that had circulated, not this specific language. The responsible thing to do now would be to pass a continuing resolution (extend spending at current levels) for a week or so, to avoid another partial government shutdown but give lawmakers time to actually go over the thing carefully and pull out the poison pills.
If Trump instead signs the bill as is, he too will have disgraced himself.