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House Democrats release $4.5B border aid package

House Democrats release $4.5B border aid package



 The border fence between the United States and Mexico is seen on June 03, 2019 in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

The border fence between the United States and Mexico is seen in Sunland Park, New Mexico. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

House spending leaders released a $4.5 billion emergency funding measure Friday to fulfill some of President Donald Trump’s request for additional aid to handle the influx of immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The 27-page bill differs from the version the Senate approved in committee this week by including extra oversight demands and giving hundreds of millions of dollars less to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But Democratic spending leaders contend the broad elements of the bills are similar, improving prospects for a bipartisan compromise before the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services completely deplete resources in the coming weeks.

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House Democratic leaders are eyeing a Tuesday vote on the bill, eager to have it signed into law before they depart for a 10-day July Fourth recess, according to lawmakers and aides.

But the funding package will be a tough sell for many in the Democratic caucus who are still seething over the president’s defiance of Congress on immigration policy and on construction of a border wall, even as he seeks a $4.5 billion infusion to support the very agencies carrying out those directives.

Top Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee made an aggressive final pitch for the bill on Thursday, with lengthy presentations to both the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Within the Progressive Caucus, there are still doubts about whether a majority of the group’s more than 90 members will support the bill. Many are concerned that the safeguards in the House version will not be enough to rein in an administration that has bucked nearly every congressional attempt to constrain its immigration and border security policies.

Still, key members from both groups suggested they will ultimately back the bill — support they see as crucial to increasing their leverage in negotiations with the Senate on a final product.

Quelling some concerns among Democrats, the bill includes language requiring temporary detention facilities to meet the same standards as longer-term facilities within 12 months, rather than the 14-month deadline stated in the Senate bill. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have increasingly criticized those so-called influx facilities, which are often unlicensed and fall short of basic standards of care.

Within a summary and fact sheet comparing the House and Senate versions, House spending leaders highlighted the fact that the House bill also contains an additional $30 million that lawmakers who represent communities near the U.S.-Mexico border requested to reimburse local governments and groups that provide humanitarian support for incoming immigrants.

The House bill provides $50 million less for the Executive Office of Immigration Review than the Senate measure, S. 1900 (116), and it leaves out $61 million that the Senate approved to remedy a pay shortfall at ICE; $3.7 million for ICE deportation costs; and $21.3 million for ICE investigations work.

The House measure includes an extra $5.2 million that the Senate bill does not contain for ICE to use for background investigations and facility inspections.

Among its extra oversight demands, the House bill would require the Trump administration to use the money Congress already provided for aid to the Central American countries from which many U.S.-bound immigrants have been fleeing.

Under the bill, HHS would be allowed to provide the same scope of legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children that it was able to deliver during the Obama administration.



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