AOC and Other Democrats Are Rebelling Against Nancy Pelosi's Border Bill

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty, J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Amid the rush to deliver more funds to the border to assist crowded facilities, where lawyers have reported seeing children taking care of toddlers, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive House members are demanding that the Trump administration be prohibited from using relief funds for immigration enforcement, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, Trump has already promised to veto any funding bill that stops his administration from using funds to support their inhumane enforcement practices, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that President Donald Trump postponed on Sunday in an attempt to cajole Democrats into changing asylum laws.

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According to the Times, Pelosi fielded concerns from dozens of House Democrats on Sunday after calling for the passage of the $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian aid. Pelosi claimed the bill protects families and “does not fund the administration’s failed mass detention policy.” However, more than 30 members of the Progressive Caucus and more than 15 members of the Hispanic Caucus told her that the bill didn’t hold migrant shelters to higher standards and didn’t stop the funds from being used for immigration enforcement.

“We all want to address the problems at the border, but we don’t know that there are enough sticks in this bill to make sure that the Trump administration actually spends the money the way they’re supposed to,” Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a co-chair of the CPC, told the Times. “He’s creating these crises and then trying to point a finger at Democrats to give him more money, which he then uses for his own purposes.”

Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib—a group of four freshmen congresswomen who together have shaped the House opposition to both Trump and establishment Democrats—released a statement condemning emergency funding that would go toward deportation and family separation.

“These radicalized, criminal agencies are destroying families and killing innocent children,” their statement to the Times read. “It is absolutely unconscionable to even consider giving one more dollar to support this president’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people.”

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Among these demands, House Democrats are also asking for the following, from the Times:

They want to give the administration less time to comply with existing standards for facilities that house children, and to include higher health, nutritional, hygiene and sanitation standards for Customs and Border Protection facilities.

They would ban for-profit companies from running migrant shelters and would scrap funding for the United States Marshals that is specifically geared toward referring people who entered or re-entered the country illegally for criminal prosecution. And they want stronger prohibitions against sharing the immigration records of people who come forward to take custody of unaccompanied migrant children.

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This isn’t so radical when looking at the bigger picture of the human rights abuses that this administration has carried out on immigrants.

However, some members of Congress from border districts are pressing to move forward with the emergency funds. “Are there things I would like to change? Absolutely,” Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, a fellow first-year member who is from El Paso and represents the seat formerly held by presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, told the Times. “But we have a real crisis.”

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Meanwhile, a similar bipartisan Senate bill with weaker restrictions might be passed in its place instead. That bill, for $4.6 billion in aid, prevents the Office of Refugee Resettlement—which houses separated and unaccompanied migrant children—from sharing the information of people who take in such children with immigration officials. The Senate bill also appropriates $145 million to the Army, Marine Corps, the Army National Guard, and the Air Force, where the House bill has none.

The House bill, progressive demands aside, is more strict in that it gives child detention centers 12 months (instead of the Senate’s 14) to meet sanitation standards, allows surprise oversight visits from Congress members (the Senate bill requires two days’ notice), and requires the Department of Health and Human Services to report a child’s death to Congress in 24 hours, among other mandates regarding operation orders and legal representation for children.

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Escobar said Democrats were trying to advance “a bill that reflects more of our values,” but that, “We’re running out of time. We all saw what happened in Clint—there’s no time.”

With a House vote on the package scheduled for Tuesday, the entire situation is bleak—either the Democrats pass a bill that acquiesces to the Trump’s hate of “partisan provisions designed to hamstring the administration’s border enforcement efforts,” as the White House put it in a statement, or be cast by Trump as a villain holding funds for children ransom and have their proposal held up in the Senate or vetoed anyway. And all the while, the humanitarian crisis at the border continues to get worse.

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About the author

Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan