Freshmen Progressive Dems Draw a Line in the Sand Over DHS Funding

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais (AP)

As a committee of congressional Democrats and Republicans meet to hash out a new bill to keep the government open after February 15, a group of progressive House freshmen have made it clear that they’re prepared to put their feet down—not only when it comes to paying for the president’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but for funding for the Department of Homeland Security altogether.

In a “Dear Colleague” letter dated January 29, obtained by The Daily Beast on Thursday, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez urge their fellow members at the negotiating table to “cut... not increase” money for DHS. The group also encourages Democrats not to allow the Trump administration to transfer money into DHS to use as a “slush fund” for his anti-immigration priorities, as well as calls for more accountability “stringent oversight mechanisms, and critical obligations... in statutory text not just report language.”

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While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared unequivocally on Thursday that “there is not going to be any wall money” in the bill currently being negotiated in the Conference Committee, Democrats have reportedly been unwilling to rule out funding additional security measures, including an unspecified type of barrier along the border.

“As a nation we need comprehensive immigration reform driven by justice and data,” they write. “Let us be clear that the process will not play out during the Conference Committee’s narrow DHS deliberations.”

They continue:

But a budget is a statement of our values. With the world watching and the lives of families at stake, we should not compromise our values at the negotiating table.

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While it’s unclear what effect the quartet’s letter will have on the final product to come out of the conference committee negotiations—Pelosi can afford to lose 17 Democrats and still get a bill on a party-line vote passed, although it’s unclear how receptive House Republicans will be to the bill that ultimately comes out of negotiations—the group’s final paragraph makes it clear that the authors are looking past this single funding fight and are speaking toward a larger debate going on within their party, and the country as a whole: How should America address immigration going forward?

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Rafi Schwartz

Senior writer. When in doubt he'll have the soup.