As word broke Monday that Congressional Democrats had reached a deal “in principle” with Republicans and the Trump administration on a budget to avert another potential government shutdown — most of the debate centering around funding for border security and Trump’s proposed border wall — sheriff’s groups and law enforcement officials were expressing concern over what Sen. Mitch McConnell called a last minute “poison pill” that threatens to derail negotiations.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced his dismay on the Senate floor Monday afternoon with a proposal from the Democrats that would cap the number of detainees that could be held at the border, which could ostensibly release illegal aliens into the U.S., including those with known criminal records.
McConnell’s office released a statement regarding the issue Monday afternoon:
“Here’s what happened: House Democrats decided to add a poison-pill demand into the conversations at the 11th hour. It’s a new demand. And it is extreme: A hard, statutory cap on the number of illegal immigrants who could be detained by the federal government. This would result in the release of thousands of criminal aliens and our inability to detain thousands more criminal aliens whom our federal and state law enforcement authorities will apprehend.
“This is a poison pill that no administration – not this one, not the previous one -- would -- or should -- ever accept. Imagine the absurdity of this. House Democrats want to set a limit on how many criminal aliens our government can detain. A limit that is not based on any aspect of reality, such as how many criminal aliens there actually are, or what crimes they have committed -- just an arbitrary number a couple of lawmakers have pulled out of thin air. The consequence of such an arbitrary limit is obvious: Thousands of criminal aliens would simply be released into the interior of our country, both immediately and then on a rolling basis.
Sheriff organizations met Monday on Capitol Hill to express their concern over the last-minute provision, saying the effort was primarily a political maneuver that would put the security of the nation at risk.
Two groups, the National Sheriffs’ Associationand the Major County Sheriffs of America, sent a letter to several legislators involved in negotiations over border funding and warned that the Democrat plan was a “dangerous Congressional proposal [that] not only jeopardizes the risk of our national security, but hinders our law enforcement officers from effectively enforcing and upholding the law and protecting their communities.”
Sheriff Mike Bouchard, VP for Government Affairs with the Major County Sheriffs of America told Townhall that word of a deal has these groups waiting to see what happens with the proposal he calls “disingenuous” and “really frustrating.”
Along with Democrat calls to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Bouchard said he sees a pattern that looks a lot like a plan to move toward open borders.
“If you want to get rid of something, the first thing you have to do is minimize it,” he said. “We are very frustrated with some of the political shenanigans going on. We need border security. Border security is national security. We, as sheriffs, raise our hands to uphold the Constitution and protect this country. The rule of law is very much a part of that. This is a violation of that rule of law.”
Bouchard says he supports a solid immigration system but says a key component of such a system is the ability to vet people coming across to the border to ensure they don’t pose a threat to the country.
Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund in Alexandria, Va., agrees with Bouchard’s assessment that the proposal may end up retarding safety processes.
"A reduction in ICE detention capacity is concerning. It is a deliberate attempt to frustrate efforts by law enforcement to detain individuals who have been charged or convicted of crimes (often violent crimes) during their removal process,” Johnson said. “There is little doubt that limiting the capacity to detain such individuals will make us all less safe."
The administration indicated a general support for these concerns with a tweet Monday afternoon before news of a potential deal was announced.