About 24 hours after a four-member mini-negotiating committee announced they had a deal to keep the government running past Friday, Trump says he doesn’t like it. At least one Republican member of the committee is also backing away. And the text of the deal has not yet been released.
To recap: the deal reportedly calls for a little less than $1.4 billion for about 55 miles of border wall—even less than the December deal that Trump rejected. The deal also calls for a very gradual decrease in the astronomical number of detention beds, which stood at 49,057 immigrants in detention on February 6. For a little context: that’s about 9,000 more detention beds than Congress authorized in 2018, and up from 27,500 in FY 2007—despite lower numbers of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, lower numbers crossing the border, and lower numbers of arrests at the border.
“Under Trump, ICE has been vastly expanding immigrant detention, both choosing to detain more people who are arrested by ICE while living in the United States and, more recently, detaining large numbers of families and asylum seekers crossing into the US. It’s been overspending its budget to do it.
“The new deal is an attempt to get ICE to reverse that trend and detain fewer people, without setting a firm cap on the number of people ICE can detain at any given time after arresting them in the US (a demand Democrats had previously made but dropped Monday night).
“According to congressional aides, it’s designed to get ICE to reduce the number of immigrants in detention to 40,520 — the level authorized by Congress last year — by September 30. To give ICE time to meet that goal, though, a congressional aide told Vox that Congress is funding ICE to detain an average of 45,274 immigrants between now and the end of September….
“The logic is that ICE can gradually reduce its detention population over those several months, detaining more people now and fewer people in September. But officially, it means the detention level Congress is authorizing is higher than it ever has been.”
Whether or not this deal goes through, Trump has other plans, including taking money from already-allocated disaster relief and military infrastructure spending:
“The emerging consensus among acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and top budget officials is to shift money from two Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control projects in Northern California, as well as from disaster relief funds intended for California and Puerto Rico. The plan will also tap unspent Department of Defense funds for military construction, like family housing or infrastructure for military bases, according to three sources familiar with the negotiations.”
Plain Talk From the Plain Dealer
The Cleveland Plain Dealer offers plain talk on immigration and the border in a just-published series, Desperation on the Arizona-Mexico border and the gap between politics and reality.
“In the world along the border, sheriffs say illegal immigration is at a historic low, crime is down, and drugs mostly flow through legal points of entry. They say that the critical security needs along the border are for more personnel and better technology, not for a 35-foot, 1,954-mile-long wall.
“Charity workers, meanwhile, say the true immigration crisis is the thousands of homeless families fleeing death and violence in Mexico and Central America.”
Visiting Nogales, the Plain Dealer’s reporters found a wall already in place and deep resentment of new fortifications and razor wire:
“In Nogales, the wall is between 18 and 24 feet tall. It is made of vertical steel beams and topped with coils of razor wire. On Feb. 2, the U.S. Army began installing the razor-sharp concertina wire all the way to the ground, after orders came from Washington D.C. to fortify the wall. They said they needed it to keep people in Mexico from snipping the wire along the top, allowing people to climb over.
“Mayor Arturo Garino, who says he knows of no such incidents, was furious about the addition of the razor wire. He says because it comes to the ground in areas close to where people live, it is dangerous and he said it makes his city look like East Berlin….
“Many gather along both sides of a wall for a glimpse of a new grandchild, or a conversation through the barrier. Until last year, they could stretch their arms through the four-inch gap in the beams for an awkward hug, but after the U.S. welded a heavy steel mesh, only their fingers could touch. With the addition of the concertina wire from top to bottom, they are barred from being near one another at all.”
The Plain Dealer series includes 10 charts to help you understand the border crisis. They show the overall decline in undocumented border crossings, the increase in families seeking asylum, the skyrocketing backlog in U.S. immigration courts, and much more.
What can one person do? That depends on who and where you are. Alvaro Enciso is 73 years old and lives near the southern border. He walks through the desert there, finding spots where men, women, and children have died trying to get to safety in the United States.
“At each spot where human remains of border crossers were found, he places a homemade wooden cross as part of an art project called “Where Dreams Die.” He walks fast because marking every spot would take several lifetimes….
“The government is using the desert to kill people,” he said. “They died looking for the American Dream. The vultures do very well out here, they always have dead bodies to eat.”