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 TlaibBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants MORE (Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden lines up high-profile surrogates to campaign in Iowa New economic confidence polls show why Bernie won't win the White House Ocasio-Cortez rips 'public charge' decision: 'The American Dream isn't a private club with a cover charge' MORE (N.Y.), Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThe DCCC's 'blacklist' protects a white male political status quo Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (Mass.) and Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive 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-AllardLA Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden Even in a time of impeachment, health care is on the agenda ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks MORE (Calif.), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarDCCC unveils initial dozen candidates for 'Red to Blue' program Senate removes 'white nationalist' from measure to screen military enlistees: report Hispanic Caucus dedicates Day of the Dead altar to migrants who died in US custody 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 CorreaLA Mayor Eric Garcetti endorses Biden Democrat makes case for impeachment in Spanish during House floor debate Democrats reach cusp of impeachment 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.