For weeks, Democrats in Congress have claimed they supported border security, but opposed a wall because it was expensive and inefficient.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking Democrat in the House, proposed a smart wall that would “create a technological barrier too high to climb over, too wide to go around, and too deep to burrow under.”
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), a top appropriator on the congressional panel set up to negotiate a spending deal and prevent another government shutdown, said “everything’s on the table” and that members of her caucus “will expand on” the $1.6 billion in already proposed border security programs.
And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left open the door to “enhanced” or “Normandy” fencing (which is meant to stop vehicles) along the border, although she ruled out any chance of money for an actual wall.
Even those minimal concessions are too much for three freshmen Democrats, who issued challenged to the new speaker and the new Democratic message by demanding cuts to funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“My colleagues @aoc @RashidaTlaib @AyannaPressley and I are telling Congress #not1dollar for child detention and for-profit detention by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE and [Department of Homeland Security] DHS, tweeted Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) Omar on Friday.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter obtained by The Daily Beast, the freshmen lawmakers wrote that any deal reached by the Conference Committee “should not allocate any additional funding to this department or to the ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] CBP agencies.”
In an interview, Omar insisted their simple message is that they are requesting “that Congress cut, not increase spending on detention facilities, stop using DHS as a slush fund, and include stronger accountability against DHS abuses under Donald Trump’s watch. We need to be the moral voice in calling attention to the abuses of ICE and CBP under Donald Trump.”
To date, the Democrats’ initial proposal would provide about a 5 percent increase for ICE, which would bring the funding level to $7.44 billion – nearly $1.1 billion less than President Trump’s request.
It also would allocate about $22 billion in total funding for CBP and ICE.
The demands from three of the leaders of the so-called resistance comes out of the blue – and with a touch of hypocrisy.
When the House held its first vote on Jan. 3, all three supported the passage of H.J. Res. 1, a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8. That, of course, included monies for ICE, CBP and other immigration enforcement agencies.
And when the House considered two Democrat bills to re-open the government in late January, only Ocasio-Cortez voted against the measure. She cited opposition to funding ICE in her Instagram explanation of her vote.
“We didn’t vote with the party because one of the spending bills included ICE funding, and our community felt strongly about not funding that,” she said, according to Roll Call. The vote that eventually re-opened the government was passed in the House by unanimous consent.
Reps. Omar, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley have demonstrated a knack for courting controversy and news coverage. We will know by the Feb. 15 government shutdown deadline whether they yield real influence within the Democratic caucus and whether their open-border, anti-enforcement voices speak for the larger Democratic Party.