Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that she and other House Democrats are prepared to follow the Senate's lead and work on an emergency funding bill to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis at the United States-Mexico border.
There's just one catch, though: it'll likely come with "radical riders" that would nullify existing immigration laws and allow illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to use minor children to bypass parts of the asylum inquiry.
Fox News reports that Pelosi and other House Democrats are abandoning their claims that the crisis at the border is "manufactured," and, under pressure both from the public and the Trump administration, they are ready to negotiate on a bill that would provide emergency funding to the Department of Homeland Security so that officials on the border can better house and care for the shockingly high number of asylum seekers currently detained and awaiting adjudication on their claims.
The Trump administration has been begging Congress to authorize the emergency spending, warning the House and Senate repeatedly that the Department of Homeland Security and United States Customs and Border Protection aren't equipped to handle the 100,000-plus asylum seekers either presenting themselves or being caught at the southern border every month.
The number is more than ten times what DHS and CBP are equipped to handle, and many of the migrants must face at least temporary detainment before being given a hearing or a hearing date on their hardship claims.
Until last week, however, when certain Members of Congress began referring to the detention facilities along the border as "concentration camps," Democrats seemed more than willing to ignore the problem. Now, though, they're being called upon to do something cooperative to address the strain. For Democrats, the need has embroiled leadership in an identity crisis: many Democrats are opposed to any restrictions on immigration but they also do not want to be blamed for allowing a humanitarian crisis to fester further.
The Senate is looking at a bipartisan $4.5 billion emergency funding bill with few strings attached — though it does call on the president to address immigration reform promptly. In the House, though, Nancy Pelosi and progressive Democrats are reportedly trying to hold financial aid hostage to an agreement to ignore some of the most pressing parts of immigration law.
The bill authorizes $934.5 million for "processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, medical services, and safe transportation" and "$866 million to reduce reliance on influx shelters to house children," according to Town Hall, as well as "$200 million for an integrated, multi-agency processing center pilot program for families and unaccompanied children, with participation by non-profit organizations," and money to pay for legal services, and to assist jurisdictions "experiencing a significant influx of migrants and non-profit organizations serving those communities."
There are also options in the bill to authorize funding for legal aid and to hire on temporary caseworkers to make sure unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents are cared for and reunited with their caregivers as soon as possible.
But GOP sources told Fox News that these emergency funding programs come at a cost that won't be borne by taxpayers. The Democrats are trying to force riders that "would stop border agents from conducting any asylum interviews," thus keeping the burden on immigration courts the same. Another "would prevent the funds from being used by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to share information on sponsors of child migrants, potential sponsors or their households with DHS."
That might have the effect of allowing child and human trafficking operations to proliferate, and would tie HHS's and DHS's hands when they come across smuggling rings.
Worst of all, the Democrats may be looking at a rider that Republicans are calling a "poison pill" — one that allows illegal immigrants who come accompanied by a minor child to bypass certain aspects of the immigration interview process.
That rider "allegedly includes language that would require the federal government to prospectively notify illegal immigrants that if they bring an unaccompanied child into the country and sponsor them, their illegal status would in no way be used against them, a source said, and that the child will be delivered to them without any reservation," Fox News reports.
Finally, it seems Democrats are seeking to subvert President Donald Trump's recent agreement with Mexico and prevent the United States government from forcing some asylum seekers to remain in Mexico until their claims can be properly adjudicated.
The Senate is expected to pass its emergency funding bill this week. The controversial House bill is still in the draft stage, so it may not make it to the floor.