Actually fixing the border problem, the court-driven loopholes spawning the Central American invasion, was never even in the cards. Trump began with a demand of $25 billion in border funding to solve a policy problem with money. Then it became $5.6 billion. In the “deal” cooked up by a congressional committee, it’s reportedly $1.375 billion, which is actually slightly less than the $1.6 billion Senate Democrats already agreed to last June! Now that we are left with enough money to build 55 miles of bollard fencing, the trade-off is not worth the money, because the cost will be borne by ICE and ultimately the American people.
Democrats were the ones who engaged in “the art of the deal” on this super-committee over border funding. Rather than discussing how to end the magnets and catch-and-release, Democrats opened a new front last week by demanding more catch-and-release through the proposal of a rigid cap on the number of beds ICE can maintain in order to detain illegal aliens, most of them dangerous criminals, through interior apprehensions. The proposal was just a trial balloon, but it allowed Democrats to then pull back from the demand, look all magnanimous and cooperative, yet still come out ahead of the game with a lower limitation on ICE detentions.
Under the committee’s proposal, Democrats and RINOs agreed to provide enough funds for ICE to house 40,520 detainees by the end of the fiscal year. Not only is that below the 52,000 request from the administration, it is a 17.4 percent cut from the current level of 49,057 detainees. The border surge is growing every day, and without any desire to get rid of the magnets and fix the court problems with asylum, unaccompanied minors, and catch-and-release, the invasion will only grow as nicer weather returns in the early spring. Trump will have fewer resources to detain illegals than under the current policy, which will induce even more catch-and release, thereby incentivizing even more illegal immigration in a perpetual death spiral for American sovereignty.
What does Trump get in return? Fifty-five miles of non-concrete fencing in the Rio Grande Valley in eastern Texas. It’s like putting a Band-aid over a gushing arterial puncture wound.
Moreover, the migration is already being driven westward into New Mexico and away from Texas. That is where we need a wall.
Furthermore, by agreeing to this deal, Trump would then pave the road to pass a long-term funding bill for the rest of government through September 30. The one thing he has going for him is the fact that these short-term funding bills keep the issue of the border alive as the top priority in the country. This allows him to potentially harness what will inevitably be a worsening of the crisis to further pressure the Democrats as time goes on. Once the deadline is punted for the remainder of the fiscal year, there is no hope left. Thus, in order for it to be worth the trade, Trump must get something more substantial or at least not agree to make current policy worse for ICE.
Trump panned the deal today during a cabinet meeting and said, “I’m adding things to it.”
The weak nature of this deal is not surprising, given the makeup of the committee. Republicans had Sens. Shelby, Capito, Blunt, and Hoeven negotiating for them. The latter three have always been supporters of amnesty, and Hoeven himself was the lead sponsor of the final Senate version of the 2013 Gang of 8 amnesty! There really is no fundamental disagreement on this issue between the two sides.
Some are suggesting that Trump plans to secure more wall funding through the declaration of an emergency and reprogramming of defense funding through section 2808 of the Emergencies Act. However, if he plans to go the executive route anyway, then he should just do that without agreeing to a bad deal. Politically, Trump needs to keep the issue alive with a clean short-term CR in order to effectively make the case to the American people why this is indeed an emergency.
To that end, Trump would be better off rejecting this deal and doing the following:
1) Announce that he will only sign a short-term funding bill until the broader problems with catch-and-release are dealt with or he gets the full funding for the wall.
2) Trump should immediately announce through the proper use of the Administrative Procedure Act that he intends to terminate DACA within 90 days. That is his greatest source of leverage over Democrats. But again, that only works if he keeps the budget deadline as a live football and doesn’t agree to a long-term funding bill. Democrats need to feel the pressure of a deadline while also fearing they will lose on immigration what they already have in the bag.
3) Trump needs to take a holistic approach to the emergency rather than focus solely on wall funding. He should designate the Mexican cartels as terror groups and use the DOD assets that this designation frees up to start threatening them.
4) Trump should invoke “Title 10” powers over the National Guard to override the liberal governors who are pulling back troops, particularly in New Mexico. The show of force is clearly working in Central Texas, but now the migration is being driven westward. Given that the state government of New Mexico doesn’t want to use such force, Trump needs to do it.
5) Trump should deputize state law enforcement at the border to perform immigration duties. 103(a)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows the attorney general, in the event of “an imminent mass influx of migrants” at our border, with the permission of the relevant state agency heads, to “perform or exercise any of the powers, privileges, or duties conferred or imposed” by immigration law. Obviously, the governments in California and New Mexico won’t agree, but this will work for Texas and Arizona.
6) Under a similar provision, the president can deputize any other federal agent, from Fish and Wildlife and Bureau of Management to the U.S. Marshals and National Park Service, to perform border duties. For those federal lands at or near the border, this is needed anyway because many of them feel unsafe with the trespassing of cartel traffickers on federal lands.
7) After building a comprehensive approach to the border and the cartels centered around the military, then Trump should invoke his emergency powers to reprogram DOD funding as well as using existing authority to build fencing under 10 U.S.C. § 284 to combat drug trafficking.
8) Trump should expand the policy of processing asylum claims in Mexico to the rest of the border. Currently, DHS is only doing this at San Diego.
A holistic approach will demonstrate to the American people that this truly is an emergency and make any reprogramming of funds more politically sound. The president needs to stop beating around the bush on negotiations that fail to address the source of the problems anyway.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.