It's day 21 of the partial federal government shut down. Washington D.C. is increasingly quiet as Democrats continue their refusal to fund any part of a border barrier and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are headed home.
But while the talking point is about stopping President Trump's wall, Democrats are actually rejecting a long list of border security measures laid out by the White House.
Last week, Office of Budget and Management Acting Director Russell Vought sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee outlining requirements for an adequate funding bill.
"Appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2019 that have already been considered by the current and previous Congress are inadequate to fully address these critical issues. Any agreement for the current year should satisfy the following priorities," the letter states. "The President requests at least $563 million for 75 additional Immigration Judges and support staff to reduce the backlog of pending immigration cases."
The current backlog for asylum claims made at the border is 800,000 cases. According to the Department of Homeland Security, asylum claims have increased by 2000 percent over the past five years and approximately 90 percent of them are thrown out in court. President Trump has also requested additional funding for 750 new Border Patrol Agents and $571 million for 2,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents to help "address gang violence, smuggling and trafficking, and the spread of drugs in our communities."
Meanwhile, President Trump is specifically providing more resources on requests Democrats have been making. They are the following:
-Detention Beds, ICE: The President requests $4.2 billion to support 52,000 detention beds.
-Humanitarian needs: The President requests an additional $800 million to address urgent humanitarian needs. This includes additional funding for enhanced medical support, transportation, consumable supplies appropriate for the population, and additional temporary facilities for processing and short-term custody of this vulnerable popilation, which are necessary to ensure the well-being of those taken into custody.
-Counter-narcotics/weapons technology: $675 million would provide Non-Intrusive Inspection (NII) technology at inbound lanes at U.S. Southwest Border Land Ports of ENtry (LPOE) would all CBP to deter and etect more contraband, including narcotics, weapons, and other materials that pose nuclear and radiological threats. This would reqires an increase of $631 million over the FY 2019 funding level in the Senate version of the bill.
Significantly, the President is requesting nearly as much funding for ICE detention beds as he is for a border barrier.
The letter does include President Trump's funding request of $5.7 billion for "construction of a steel barrier for the Southwest border." When you add up the numbers, it doesn't even take up the majority of the funding request or the administration's overall approach to the crisis.
While Democrats grandstand on the barrier, they're rejecting billions of dollars to fund a number of other essential border security operations.
"These upfront investments in physical barriers and technology, as well as legislation to close loopholes in our immigration system, will reduce illegal immigration, the flow of illicit drugs entering our country and reduce the long term costs for order and immigration enforcement activities," Vought says. "The Administration looks forward to advancing these critical priorities as part of legislation to reopen government."
President Trump visited the southern border in Texas yesterday and will host a border security round table at the White House Friday afternoon.