Apart from the absence of a DACA/Dream amnesty, the immigration portions represent a comprehensive victory by the anti-enforcement crowd. Nancy Pelosi even gloated about her victory on the House floor, saying to the president, “if you want to think you’re getting a wall, you just think it and sign the bill.”
Among other things, the administration’s requested increase in ICE agents was rejected; since many of those agents were slated for worksite enforcement (which is bureaucratically separate from the deportations side of ICE), the Democrats have ensured that, while illegal aliens will keep getting arrested, the American employers who profit off them will have less to worry about than they would have otherwise.
What’s more, the bill funds less detention space than is currently being used. The request for added space to hold illegal aliens is especially important given the continued high levels of “unaccompanied” minors and family units still streaming across the border. In effect, the (Republican-dominated) House of Representatives has voted to continue a policy of catch-and-release, where illegal aliens, as under Obama, are apprehended and then let go into the U.S.
The idea of sanctuary cities is deeply unpopular, and yet measures that would have restricted funds to them, in order to persuade them to turn away from their John C. Calhoun–style nullification of federal law were stricken from the bill. True, the Justice Department lawsuit against California may eventually succeed, but there’s a reason the Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse.
The spending bill also micromanages physical barriers on the border. It provides funds for 30-something miles of new fencing on the Texas border, but specifies that none of it may resemble the wall prototypes that the Border Patrol has been testing for the past few months. The bill prohibits any kind of border barrier in the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, a bird sanctuary on the Rio Grande in South Texas. A fence or wall wouldn’t interfere with the birds, of course, since they could fly over it; the objections to building there have centered on the fact that it would restrict access to bird-watchers. And a bollard wall actually saved another sanctuary, the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona, which a decade ago was being overrun by illegal aliens.
Perhaps most galling: The bill provides funding, without the onerous restrictions, to the Secretary of Defense “to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas including Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Tunisia” — border security for thee, but not for me.
It could be worse, of course, and next year it probably will be — this bill is the sort of stunt that depresses Republican turnout and makes it even more likely than otherwise that Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker next January.