Before getting into the details of this crazy omnibus bill, it’s important to recognize that we don’t understand all the details. The worst provisions are written in vague language ensconced in an 1,169-page bill, which has already been posted online in two different versions (the first was 10 pages shorter). That is exactly why Democrats are salivating to vote on this within a few hours of passage, which is exactly why Trump has a responsibility to oppose it immediately and demand at least a short-term clean continuing resolution so that he can digest the consequences of this bill. If he cannot make that simple demand, which would not even trigger a phony shutdown, then his presidency is worthless.
The process is indefensible: It is immoral, from any ideological perspective, to vote on an 1,169-page omnibus with new provisions on immigration amid a border crisis. We are already four and a half months into this fiscal year and have been operating on stopgap bills. There is no rush to vote on something like this, which will fund seven departments for the remainder of the year, within a few hours when we should have another stopgap bill while we debate, and even discover, the contents of this long-term bill that makes important statutory changes. The only reason one would pursue this process is to hide things from the American people.
Here are the immediate issues to flag:
1) Less of a wall than even what Democrats already agreed to: Trump originally demanded $25 billion for the wall. Then he negotiated himself down to $5.6 billion. Democrats balked and only agreed to $1.6 billion. This bill calls it a day at $1.375 billion, enough to construct 55 miles. But it’s worse than that. This bill limits the president’s ability to construct “barriers” to just the Rio Grande Valley sector and only bollard fencing, not concrete walls of any kind. There’s no ability to adapt. Furthermore, section 231 prohibits construction even within the RGV in five locations that are either federal or state lands. Remember, the challenge with building a wall in Texas is that, unlike in other states, the feds need to navigate issues with private lands. The first place you’d construct fencing is on public lands, which are now prohibited. The national parks along the border have gotten so bad that park rangers are scared to travel alone in them.
2) Liberal local officials have veto power over wall: Actually, on second thought, it’s likely that not a single mile of fence will be built. Section 232(a) of this bill states that “prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers” the Department of Homeland Security “shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city.” With whom must the feds consult? “The local elected officials.” Now you can understand the brilliance of limiting the wall to the Rio Grande Valley. These are the most liberal counties on the border (thanks to demographics of open borders itself!), and there is practically no local official who supports the wall in these counties.
What are the consequences? This bill stipulates that “Such consultations shall continue until September 30, 2019 (or until agreement is reached, if earlier) and may be extended beyond that date by agreement of the parties, and no funds made available in this Act shall be used for such construction while consultations are continuing.” Thus, all the Beto O’Rourke type of politicians in that region have de facto veto power. There’s a reason why they didn’t authorize fencing in conservative counties like Cochise and Yuma in Arizona.
3) This bill contains a blatant amnesty for the worst cartel smugglers: Section 224(a) prohibits the deportation of anyone who is sponsoring an “unaccompanied” minor illegal alien – or who says they might sponsor a UAC, or lives in a household with a UAC, or a household that potentially might sponsor a UAC. It’s truly difficult to understate the betrayal behind this provision. One of the driving factors of the invasion is the misinterpretation of the UAC law. Under current law, Central American teenagers are only treated as refugees if they are A) a victim of “A severe form of trafficking” and B) have no relatives in the country. Yet almost all of them are self-trafficked by these very illegal relatives who are indeed present in the country. Rather than clamping down on this fleecing of the American people, the bill gives amnesty to the very people paying the cartels to invade us!
“We can call this the MS-13 Household Protection Act of 2019,” said Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies. “We know that 80 percent of the UAC sponsors are in the country illegally. The number of people this would protect would reach into the hundreds of thousands, if all of the household or potential household members are counted. ICE has estimated that 30-40 percent of the MS-13 members it has arrested in the last two years arrived as UACs. There is no reason to shield any of these individuals from deportation. After all, if the minor is living with family, they should no longer be considered unaccompanied anyway. If there are illegal aliens here who do not yet have a child here to serve as a deportation shield, this certainly is an incentive for them to make the arrangements to bring one.”
4) More funding to manage and induce the invasion rather than to deter it: While offering no new funding for ICE deportation agents or immigration judges to speed up asylum claims, as the president requested, this bill adds another $40 million for the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, which moves asylum seekers to facilities in the interior of the country, where they are usually released. Vaughan, who has studied interior immigration enforcement for decades, warned that “this bill will further expand and institutionalize the catch-and-release policies for those arriving illegally at the border from all over the world.”
What are the effects of the ATD program? “Most of these people have no intention of asking for asylum and know they don’t qualify for it, but are simply joining the illegal population, knowing it’s unlikely that they will be deported. The bill funds ‘case management’ staff to keep tabs on those who don’t abscond immediately, but no money for ICE officers to find and remove them. This is going to saddle the communities that have been forced to absorb these new arrivals with billions of dollars of future costs for schooling, health care, and other welfare services.”
At the same time, this bill reduces border detention beds from 49,060 to 40,520 rather than expanding them as Trump demanded. It contains no funding for more border agents. It offers $3.4 billion for refugee resettlement, more than last year’s record levels. Remember, much of the refugee program has been used not just for bringing in traditional refugees from overseas but to resettle the aforementioned Central American teenagers being self-trafficked through the border, empowering cartels, and taking advantage of us.
5) Doubling low-skilled workers: This bill (p. 1,161) doubles the number of H-2B non-agricultural, unskilled seasonal workers who will continue to be a public charge on America. This gives you a glimpse of what is driving this amnesty bill on the Republican side.
This is just a cursory glance through the bill. Taken together, these provisions will aggravate the criminal conspiracy of the cartels and continue the invasion. Just this week, 1,800 family units came in during one 24-hour period, a new record. The message of this bill is to come here and seek bogus asylum or to grab a kid and you and others will get amnesty. Plus, there are no wall or policy changes to mitigate these effects.
Moreover, this bill will likely override Trump’s executive powers because of the sneaky limitations on wall construction. This is the sort of omnibus bill that ensnared Reagan in Iran-Contra. Signing this bill will undermine his case for an emergency at the border both legally and politically.
If Trump signs this bill instead of vetoing it and firing the people in the White House promoting it, he deserves to lose re-election.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.