The 2019 budget deal is a lose/lose proposition, with both Trump and immigrants losing big-time. Trump loses because he gets even less money for a border wall / fence / whatever than he turned down in December. Immigrants (and taxpayers and everybody) lose because the deal includes increased funding for DHS, ICE, and CBP. While the deal contains language about limiting detention beds, it actually increases the funding and number of detention beds through September 30 by about 5,000 people per day (from 40,520 people per day in FY18 to 45,274 people per day in FY19). The bill also fails to restrict ICE’s authority to transfer and reprogram funds, which ICE has used to increase the actual number of detainees to 49,057 immigrants in detention as of February 6.
Language about decreasing detention beds after September 30 means little or nothing, as that will be Fiscal Year 2020, with a new appropriations fight over any and all budget provisions for 2020. The 2019 deal does not provide back pay for federal contract workers. It does not extend the Violence Against Women Act. It does not offer anything to DREAMers or TPS and DED recipients. If the deal is passed and if Trump signs it, the government will be funded through September 30—which means another budget fight coming by late summer.
While the budget deal included “only” $1.375 billion for the wall, Trump said he will declare a state of emergency and plans to take money from other agencies and allocations to pay for construction of the wall. One theory: Because he has sent military troops to the border, they are now in danger, and therefore a wall is needed to protect them. That line of reasoning has only three problems: troops are not needed at the border, they are not in danger at the border, and a wall protects no one. Expect a state of emergency declaration, followed by lawsuits.
And in other news:
Stopping the children: Back in August, Mexican immigration agents started detaining unaccompanied minors in Tijuana when they tried to put their names of the waiting list of asylum seekers. In November, they began stopping the unaccompanied minors from approaching the border. Now they are stopping children who are accompanied by U.S. immigration attorneys.
“I don’t know when they decided this was the best strategy and if there is a new policy we have not been made aware of it,” [Nicole Ramos of Al Otro Lado] told BuzzFeed News. “Mexican immigration … snatches them up when they are on the precipice of safety. How does that benefit the children? That is a political move, and children are the victims.” …
“Stopping children escorted by attorneys is the latest method officials are using to stop unaccompanied minors from reaching the US. The tactics, advocates say, leave an unknown number of unaccompanied minors in Tijuana with no legitimate path to request asylum in the US and increases the likelihood that they’ll be taken into the custody of child protection services, where their only options are deportation or asylum in Mexico.”
Immigration judges: In June, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered judges to reject asylum claims from victims of domestic and gang violence. That was the last straw for immigration judge Rebecca Jamil.
“Jamil, a mother of two young daughters, had been shaken by the images and sounds that came as a result of the Trump administration’s policy to separate families at the border. As a judge who oversaw primarily cases of women and children fleeing abuse and dangers abroad, this was the last straw.
“Soon after, she stepped down from the court.
“I can’t do this anymore,” she told friends. “I felt that I couldn’t be ‘Rebecca Jamil, representative of the attorney general’ while these things were going on.”
She’s not the only disillusioned judge.
“It has become so emotionally brutal and exhausting that many people I know are leaving or talking about finding an exit strategy,” said one immigration judge who declined to be named. “Morale has never, ever been lower.”
“Another Justice Department official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, told BuzzFeed News, “It is exhausting when you feel undervalued by the people at the top of your organization, especially when they are motivated by partisanship and have not spent their careers doing the job that you do.”
Unfit to Lead ICE: A Senate committee delayed—for the second time—a vote on Ronald Vitiello, Trump’s nominee to head ICE. At issue: opposition from ICE’s employee union, which considers Vitiello unfit to head the agency, as well as continuing concerns about “past racially tinged and controversial comments Vitiello made on Twitter.”
“ Tuesday’s letter marked the first time the union has openly opposed the nomination of any presidential appointee. The union broke with its parent organization, the American Federation of Government Employees, when it endorsed Trump in 2016.
“In the letter, Crane cited numerous concerns that ranged from allegations of whistleblower retaliation and lying to lawmakers during Vitiello’s confirmation process, to offensive tweets that Vitiello made while serving at Customs and Border Protection.”