The debate over funding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has emerged as a major stumbling block in negotiations to keep the government open beyond Dec. 20, with some lawmakers saying it is a more divisive issue than President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, The Hill reports. Democrats insist that the Homeland Security spending bill include drastic cuts to the number of beds ICE has available for detaining immigrants, a move Republicans argue will lead to weaker border defense. Leaders of the party’s liberal wing have been outspoken on the issue. “ICE beds just need to be cut,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “The things that the administration is doing with immigrants … (are) so cruel and horrific, from creating false schools for immigrants to come to and then to try to entrap them there, everything we’ve seen on the border, the continued separation of families. So we want to see real accountability,” she added.
Democrats’ anger at ICE increased after revelations that the agency set up a fake school in Michigan to lure foreign students to violate immigration laws. “This organization has gone rogue and doesn’t know how to prioritize real threats,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The Department of Homeland Security bill in the House would reduce the number of beds from 35,520 at the end of fiscal 2019 to 34,000. The Senate bill would put the number at more than 52,000. Republicans argue that ICE needs more capacity to deal with the surge of immigrants crossing the border illegally, as well as asylum seekers. The detained population at the end of November was 44,860. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said he was not optimistic about getting all issues resolved before the Dec. 20 funding deadline.