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Congress' border security deal to avert a shutdown: What's included

Posted at 10:31 AM, Feb 12, 2019

Bipartisan congressional negotiators announced Monday night a deal over border security spending that, if signed, would prevent a government shutdown at the end of the week.

At issue had been how to fund the Department of Homeland Security -- most notably the fight over how to address President Donald Trump's signature campaign promise of a wall along the US border with Mexico.

Exact details were scarce in the initial moments following its announcement, but overnight, aides started to fill in at least some of the top line numbers expected to be included in the agreement. The final text of the legislation is expected to be posted by Wednesday, but in the meantime, here's what to expect:

Barrier funding

  • There is $1.375 billion for barrier funding that will cover roughly 55 miles of new barrier -- including parts of the Rio Grande Valley, which had been a priority for the White House.
  • The 55 miles is double the amount allocated in the last spending agreement, but 10 miles less than the bipartisan Senate Homeland Security funding bill from 2018 that Trump rejected.
  • The language and restrictions on the barrier itself are actually similar to what lawmakers have proposed in the past -- and had rejected by the President. The topline number also falls far short of the $5.7 billion requested by Trump in recent months.
  • Additionally, the deal prohibits the use of concrete walls and only "existing technologies" for border barriers that can be built. Bollard fencing is the most likely material to be used for any new barrier, aides say, but steel slats -- as Trump has previously proposed -- are technically also an option.

Detention beds

  • The issue became a sticking point that stalled talks over the weekend. Democrats view detention beds as central to a Trump administration immigration policy that is harsh and needlessly aggressive. Republicans view the detention beds as central to limiting the ability of detained undocumented immigrants from being released into the US as they await hearings.
  • The number of detention beds funded in the proposal is maintained at the current level of 40,520 (a number currently surpassed by Immigration Customs and Enforcement). There is is no explicit cap or restriction, however, on ICE funding more detention beds than allocated under the bill. Should ICE find additional funding, they can use it for more (as the agency is already doing).
  • With that in mind, multiple GOP aides say the agreement provides the flexibility to reach Trump's requested level of 52,000 detention beds, and perhaps higher than that through moving, or reprogramming, funds from other agencies inside the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans say the bill includes an additional $750 million in funds that could be transferred or reprogrammed to fund more detention beds.
  • The Democrats' demand for a cap on interior detention beds, which they proposed at 16,500, was also dropped in the final agreement.

Overall DHS funding

  • There's a $1.7 billion increase in overall spending for the Department of Homeland Security, primarily for technology, ports of entry security, customs officers and humanitarian aid.