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A 1,159-page bipartisan border compromise was introduced to the United States Congress late on February 13th to hopefully avert another government shutdown. Within its many pages, the bill called the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019” contains $1.375 billion for building 55 miles of physical barriers at the U.S-Mexico border, well below the $5.7 billion President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded. The legislation explicitly prohibits 2019 or previous years’ fiscal funding from being used to build pedestrian fencing in areas such as Santa Ana Refuge, La Lomita Historical Park, Bentsen-Rio State Park, National Butterfly Center, the Vista del Mar and several other naturally protected areas. The legislation only allows for the use of “existing technologies” to build specifically “pedestrian fencing” or “levee pedestrian fencing in the sector of the Rio Grande Valley. The bill also prohibited the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from making any changes “to the current operations and facility conditions in anticipation of a congressional oversight visit” or blocking lawmakers from “entering any facility that is used to detain or otherwise house children.”
In a statement submitted on behalf of the committee, Representative Nita Lowey explained that under this legislation the DHS would ensure that migrant children’s families are “reunited and transferred together,” before their removal from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) or transfer to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as encourage the CBP to detain siblings together. When the bill first come out to the public as well as to congress, there were many concerns from both sides of the aisle. Republican Representative Tom Graves tweeted early in the morning that he didn’t sign the bill because “With 30 minutes notice, I was allowed 1 hour to review and had to make a choice. I could not sign off.” Trump, however, did sign the bill into law on February 15th.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act is a bipartisan win for many with reasonable restrictions for the use of border protection money and the allocations of 1 billion dollars for non-physical border security programs such as inspection equipment for entry ports,$400 million for humanitarian to assist detained migrants and funds to hire 600 more CBP officers and more immigration judges to assist with cases. And after President Trump declared a National Emergency for the purpose of protecting the U.S-Mexico border, the future of the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act as well as where border wall money will be coming from is really up in the air now.