Progressives say Congress must reject funding for more ICE agents

Progressives say Congress must reject funding for more ICE agents

Four rising progressive stars on Thursday spoke out against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), calling on Democrats to vote against any measure that would increase immigration enforcement funding.

Democratic Reps. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders Ocasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' MORE (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders MORE (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Omar endorses Sanders presidential bid MORE (Mass.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders Omar calls Trump hosting G-7 at Doral 'disturbing' MORE (Minn.) and a coalition progressive immigrant rights groups collected 200,000 signatures on a petition to reject any funding for detention centers or deportation agents.

The petition was circulated by progressive groups United We Dream, the Center for Popular Democracy, Move On, Casa and Indivisible.

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"This is one of the most urgent moral issues and crises that we have in America right now," said Ocasio-Cortez.

"We will not allow children to die while we are in power here. We will not vote for any more [Department of Homeland Security] funding that hurts our children, that hurts our immigrant neighbors," said Tlaib.

The progressives are scheduled to deliver their petition to House leadership later Thursday.

Protesters supporting the petition carried signs that read: "Cut the money from the deportation force."

The petition comes as a bipartisan bicameral conference is negotiating a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget to avoid a new partial government shutdown starting Feb. 15.

The petition's requests closely match a letter sent by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to Homeland Security conferees Wednesday.

In that letter, CHC leadership wrote, "rather than reward CBP and ICE for the agencies’ fiscal mismanagement and deliberate defiance of congressional intent and the Constitution — not to mention their long list of human rights and civil liberties abuses — we ask our colleagues to hold these agencies accountable through the appropriations process."

"We don't want to see an increase in detention beds and we don't want to see any more wall funding," CHC Chairman Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-Texas) told The Hill.

Three CHC members, Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardDeLauro enters race to succeed Lowey as Appropriations chief EPA's bold step forward: Good for animals and science, better for people Trump rips Puerto Rico as 'corrupt' as storm approaches MORE (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to testify on Libra | Extremists find home on Telegram app | Warren blasts Facebook for not removing anti-Biden ad | California outlaws facial recognition in police body cameras | China rips US tech sanctions House Democrats introduce new legislation to combat foreign election interference Democratic leaders seek balance amid liberal push to go big on immigration MORE (Calif.) are part of the spending conference.

The CHC and progressives have mostly been in lockstep throughout the Trump administration in their dual demands to defund interior immigration enforcement while opposing construction of a border wall.

But Republicans have sought to exploit differences among Democrats in terms of their priorities.

"Unfortunately, some Democrats have put up plans to give more money to the deportation force, too," said Greisa Martínez Rosas, deputy executive director of United We Dream.

"They say that's just how it's done in Washington, that we just have to take it," she added. "This is a question of math and morality. The more money, the more pain, the more tears, the more sorrow. This is a matter of life and death for all of us."

The progressive message is starting to resonate throughout the caucus.

Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaLawmakers beat Capitol Police in Congressional Football Game VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules Blue Dog Democrats urge action on election security MORE (D-Calif.), a co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, speculated the conferees would have to consider a trade-off between border fencing and immigrant detention beds.

"You can only imagine the kind of horse trading that's going on in that committee," he said.

But Correa added he still isn't sure how he'll vote.

"In this situation, I'm kind of sympathetic to the progressives and I may stand with them," said Correa, adding that he's frustrated with talk of a security crisis at the border.

"The border area has never been more secure. It's more secure than other parts of the United States," Correa said.

Still, several members have expressed concerns that, if a new, bipartisan Homeland Security funding bill isn't reached, the Trump administration could end up with more leeway to move DHS funds around.

"My understanding is you're already five or six months into the fiscal year, so if you do a continuing resolution ... they'll continue to have those high levels of beds," Correa said.

"So if you want to reduce the beds you probably have to come up with a new deal," he added.

Still, progressives are drawing red lines that could complicate passage of any bipartisan funding bill.

"Budgets really are a statement of our moral values. And in this Congress we cannot have a budget that does not further our values," Omar said.

"We have a value of upholding human rights, we have a value of welcoming immigrants, we have a value of tolerance and acceptance, and we can't lose it today to a president and administration that is morally corrupt," she added.

—Updated at 5:16 p.m.