Democrats unveiled their proposal for addressing the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border this week, and it includes funding for a new polar icebreaker for the U.S. Coast Guard.
The proposal, unveiled Wednesday at the first meeting of the conference committee to negotiate a bipartisan solution, was presented by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and is the Democratic Party’s official position.
Roybal-Allard told the House-Senate Conference Committee on Homeland Security (emphasis added; video from C-SPAN below):
The proposal I’ve presented will be the basis for the House majority position for this conference. Based on a holistic analysis of the country’s most acute vulnerabilities, the proposal is balanced across the mission areas of the Department [of Homeland Security]. It advances a smart and strong border security posture while staying true to our core values as Americans.
Between the ports of entry, it provides significant investments in cutting-edge border security technology to improve situational awareness and operational control.
Technology investments are also made at mail processing facilities to interdict fentanyl and other opioids shipped through the international mail.
Significant new investments are also made in the CBP [Customs and Border Protection] and Coast Guard fleets of aircraft and vessels. This includes the procurement of the first Coast Guard heavy icebreaker since the 1970s.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the cost of a new icebreaker is about $1 billion, or $700 million if three ships are acquired for a total of $2.1 billion.
Notably, Democrats are not proposing any funding for a physical barrier on the border — just the “cutting-edge border security technology” described by Roybal-Allard.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed Thursday that “[t]here is not going to be any wall money in the legislation” that emerges from the committee.
Other Democratic leaders have suggested that they might be open to accepting fencing on the border, though it is not clear whether they meant existing fencing or new construction.
President Donald Trump unveiled his proposals for border security in an address from the Oval Office last month:
Our plan includes the following: $800 million in urgent humanitarian assistance; $805 million for drug detection technology to help secure our ports of entry; an additional 2,750 border agents and law enforcement professionals; 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce the court backlog of, believe it or not, almost 900,000 cases. However, the whole concept of having lengthy trials for anyone who sets one foot in our country unlawfully must be changed by Congress. It is unsustainable. It is ridiculous. Few places in the world would even consider such an impossible nightmare.
Our plan includes critical measures to protect migrant children from exploitation and abuse. This includes a new system to allow Central American minors to apply for asylum in their home countries, and reform to promote family reunification for unaccompanied children, thousands of whom wind up on our border doorstep.
To physically secure our border, the plan includes $5.7 billion for a strategic deployment of physical barriers, or a wall. This is not a 2,000-mile concrete structure from sea to sea. These are steel barriers in high-priority locations. Much of the border is already protected by natural barriers such as mountains and water. We already have many miles of barrier, including 115 miles that we are currently building or under contract. It will be done quickly. Our request will add another 230 miles this year in the areas our border agents most urgently need. It will have an unbelievable impact.
The president also proposed relief for illegal aliens and immigrants with temporary protected status, but Democrats have ruled out discussions on immigration in the border security negotiation.
The conference committee is working against a February 15 deadline, when the federal government will run out of money again. President Trump has said that if talks fail, he will use his legal authority to issue an emergency declaration to direct that a border wall be built.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.