WH Threatens to Veto Migrant Aid Bill 06/25 06:22
The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion House bill aimed at
improving the treatment of migrant families detained after crossing the U.S.
southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the administration's border
security efforts and raising fresh questions about the legislation's fate.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion
House bill aimed at improving the treatment of migrant families detained after
crossing the U.S. southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the
administration's border security efforts and raising fresh questions about the
The warning came as Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to
add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant
children, changes that might make the measure even less palatable to President
Donald Trump. Though revisions are possible, House leaders are still hoping for
approval as early as Tuesday.
The Senate planned to vote this week on similar legislation that has
bipartisan backing, but many House Democrats say the Senate version's
provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough. House
Democrats seeking changes met late Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"Right now, the goal is really to stop --- one death is just too much," said
Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left that meeting.
Many children detained entering the U.S. from Mexico have been held under
harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer
John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after
being in the agency's care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000
people --- more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.
Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4
recess. While lawmakers don't want to depart without acting on the legislation
for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the
border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate
compromise to Trump by week's end.
In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told
lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the
federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more
migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to
toughen border security, including funds for building Trump's proposed border
"Because this bill does not provide adequate funding to meet the current
crisis, and because it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the
Administration's border enforcement efforts, the Administration opposes its
passage," the letter said.
Several Democrats said some language they were seeking could end up in
separate legislation. Several said changes might include provisions aimed at
ensuring that detained children are treated humanely.
"We've got lives at stake," said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. He said the
U.S. has been "the gold standard" for treating refugees fleeing dangerous
countries, "and I don't think we should compromise that at all."
The meeting may have helped ease Democratic complaints. Rep. Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters before the meeting that she would oppose
the bill but left the door open afterward, saying, "I oppose the situation
we're in, but my main goal is to keep kids from dying."
Much of the legislation's money would help care for migrants at a time when
federal officials say their agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of
migrants and are running out of funds.
The back-and-forth on the spending measure came as Congress' top Democrats
criticized Trump for threatening coast-to-coast deportations of migrants.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would give Congress two weeks to
solve "the Asylum and Loopholes problems" along the border with Mexico. "If
not, Deportations start!" he tweeted.
The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep
aimed at "millions" of people living illegally in the U.S., including families.
The sweeps were supposed to begin Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.
Pelosi, D-Calif., said the threatened raids were "appalling" when she was
asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, New York.
"It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down
doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices
that are happening at the border," she said.
On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described
Trump's "chilling, nasty, obnoxious threats" and said the president "seems far
more comfortable terrorizing immigrant families" than addressing immigration
"I mean, my God, to threaten separating children from their parents as a
bargaining chip? That's the very definition of callousness," Schumer said.
It is not clear exactly what Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election
bid, means regarding asylum and loophole changes. He's long been trying to
restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the U.S. after claiming
asylum and impose other restrictions, a path he's followed since he began his
quest for president years ago. His threatened deportations came as authorities
have been overwhelmed by a huge increase of migrants crossing the border into
the U.S. in recent months.
For years, Democrats and Republicans have unable to find middle ground on
immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a
solution within two weeks.