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Mon Feb 11, 2019, 09:20 PM

Democrats Are Taking a Stand on Immigration, and This Time It's Not About the Wall

Democrats Are Taking a Stand on Immigration, and This Time It’s Not About the Wall
Border security negotiations are stalled over Democrats’ demand to cap ICE’s detention capacity.
Noah Lanard
February 11, 2019 1:22 PM

The government is days away from another shutdown, but this time the impasse isn’t over a wall. Instead, Republicans and Democrats are split over a provision that’s both more obscure and far more relevant to hardships facing immigrants under President Donald Trump’s crackdown.

At issue is the number of undocumented immigrants who can be detained after being arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement away from the border. Democrats’ decision to fight that point—instead of just denying Trump his border wall money and claiming victory—highlights a new level of commitment to dismantling the deportation machine that both parties helped build.

Democrats are pushing to cap at 16,500 the number of immigrants who can be detained by ICE after being arrested in the “interior” of the country as opposed to blocked at the border. That’s roughly the number of those immigrants detained by ICE in the final months of the Obama administration, and lower than the approximately 20,800 current detainees arrested in the interior of the country, according to an ICE official who spoke to NBC News. As a result, a 16,500-person cap would likely limit the interior enforcement that has provoked outrage in immigrant communities and force ICE to arrest fewer nonviolent immigrants.

ICE was detaining more than 48,00 people in total as of Sunday. ICE detainees who are not arrested within the country are usually transferred to the agency’s custody after being stopped at the southern border by Customs and Border Protection. Unlike the people blocked at the border, immigrants arrested by ICE in the interior of the country have often been in the country for years or decades. Many have children who are US citizens and have no criminal histories, while others may have committed crimes decades ago. Their arrests are much more likely to disrupt immigrant communities and separate families than deportations of recent border crossers.



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