Ira Mehlman: Dems’ 2020 budget proof that battle is not about ‘the wall,’ it’s about immigration enforcement


On the same day that the House of Representatives approved a massive amnesty for illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as minors and for people who accepted our offer of temporary protection in the aftermath of some disaster in their homelands, the Democratic majority sent another unmistakable signal that accommodation, rather than enforcement, is the watchword when it comes to large-scale illegal immigration.

While the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6) is a longshot to become law – it faces a tough road in the Senate and no chance of being signed by the president – the release of the FY 2020 Homeland Security Appropriations bill is both substantive and concerning.

Funding bills originate in the House, and the increasingly anti-enforcement Democratic majority now wields significant power in shaping immigration priorities. Those Democratic priorities include minimizing border enforcement and maximizing the number of unauthorized migrants who are released into the United States.


If the Democrats’ DHS funding bill were to be enacted as is, the department would have significantly less money for the construction of border barriers that prevent people from entering the country illegally, and considerably fewer resources and options for detaining and removing people who are apprehended after crossing the border. In effect, the Democratic budget bill endorses the current catch-and-release policies that are fueling the ongoing border crisis.

At a time when the border and the people assigned to control the border are overwhelmed, the Democrats’ 2020 budget proposal explicitly starves immigration enforcement agencies of the human and physical resources they need to get a handle on the situation.

The Appropriations measure would not only bar any spending on a secure border barrier but would claw back $601 million that the president, exercising legitimate executive discretionary authority, has already tapped from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund for construction. Secure fencing, which is highly effective in sectors of the border where it is in place, has become the Democrats’ bête noire, to a point where they will not even allow money and assets seized from criminal enterprises that prey upon our porous border to be used to protect it.

The funding bill not only takes aim at the physical deterrents to illegal immigration but the psychological ones as well. The current border surge is being fueled by the migrants’ understanding that entering a “credible fear” claim, however specious, is almost guaranteed to get them released into the United States, especially if they arrive with children in tow. We know this because they say so themselves.

In response, the House funding bill maintains a tight cap of 34,000 detention beds to be filled by “single adults” at a time when the Border Patrol apprehended 144,258 migrants in May alone. Moreover, as families with children account for an ever-increasing share of illegal entries, the bill calls for the complete elimination of family detention by the end of 2019.

Human resources needed to cope with the border crisis fare no better than the physical ones in the Democrats’ budget. Even as the crisis has forced the Border Patrol to shift manpower away from enforcement duties to process the mass of humanity coming across the southern border, the budget assures that no further help is on the way. A press release jointly put out by the Appropriations Committee Chairwoman, Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., boasts, in bold type, that the bill “Provides no funding for additional Border Patrol Agents, Border Patrol checkpoints, or border barriers.”

The primary beneficiaries of the reassignment of Border Patrol agents away from border enforcement duties, and the closure of checkpoints along major thoroughfares leading to the interior of the country, aren’t even migrants. Migrants no longer feel the need to sneak into our country; they can achieve their ends by exploiting loopholes in our asylum laws. Rather, the shortage of Border Patrol agents and the elimination of interior checkpoints is a boon to criminal cartels that are running drugs and other contraband across the fenceless stretches of the border.


Passage of the American Dream and Promise Act amnesty in the face of a border crisis that, as the Washington Post described has the “U.S. immigration system on the brink” of collapse might be charitably written off as a case of grossly misplaced priorities. Starving the agencies charged with controlling the crisis of desperately needed resources and manpower can only be described as sabotage of immigration enforcement.

The 2020 House Appropriations bill leaves little doubt that the political battle is not about “the wall.” It is about immigration enforcement itself.

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