Politics & Government

NC congressman’s attempt to undo stricter asylum rules is not part of border deal

U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC) criticizes recent immigration raids during a visit to El Centro Hispano on Friday, April 20, 2018, as Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils listens.
U.S. Rep. David Price (D-NC) criticizes recent immigration raids during a visit to El Centro Hispano on Friday, April 20, 2018, as Carrboro Alderman Damon Seils listens.

Rep. David Price’s attempt to deny money for the implementation of stricter asylum rules was not included in a compromise homeland security bill.

Price, a North Carolina Democrat, was a member of the bipartisan conference committee tasked with reaching a compromise on homeland security funding in order to avert a second government shutdown this year. The group announced it had reached an agreement Monday evening and worked out additional details Tuesday.

Not included in the bill was an amendment pushed by Price to reverse asylum guidance put in place by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions’ guidance said fears of domestic violence or gang violence could not be used as grounds to claim asylum. Price expressed hope last week that his amendment would be included in the final bill.

But Price’s amendment, along with others dealing with policy, were stripped out of the bill.

“In the end, with limited time, there was a decision made to just eliminate the riders,” Price told The News & Observer on Tuesday night. “In the conference environment, it just couldn’t make it.”

Sean Gallagher, Atlanta Field Office Director for U.S. ICE, talks about the increased arrests his office is making and attributed it to Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden's cancellation of the 287g program at the jai.

Price, from Chapel Hill, said he will continue to fight the guidance.

“It’s totally unacceptable to be restricting asylum claims in this way. It’s just one of a list, unfortunately, of policies that are unacceptable,” Price said.

But conservative immigration groups were relieved that the measures implemented by the Trump administration had been kept in place. They see the measure as even more important than a wall on the southern border when it comes to stopping illegal immigration.

RJ Hauman, the government relations director at FAIR, which advocates for stronger immigration enforcement, warned that Price’s measures could upend progress in the fight against illegal immigration, considering a large portion of those seeking to enter the country are turning themselves in and asking for asylum.

“This is the engine behind our current illegal immigration crisis,” he said. “The wall, border barriers are helpful. But that is not how you stop our current problem of people presenting themselves at ports of entry so they can make these asylum claims.”

Price, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he was happy to have six other spending bills not “held hostage any longer,” but called the Department of Homeland Security funding bill “just a painful compromise.” Among the parts of government covered by the other six bills were agriculture, commerce, justice, interior, financial services, transportation and housing and urban development — areas that were largely closed during the shutdown.

The bill includes $1.375 billion for physical barriers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley along the border with Mexico. The figure is far less than the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump demanded during a 35-day government shutdown in December and January.

“We got the wall number, which is a request without merit, I think we got that as low as we could hope to get it in this environment,” Price said.

The bill also includes money for interior enforcement and detention beds, areas of significant partisan differences.

The compromise legislation must still pass the House and Senate. Trump said he was “not happy” with the compromise, but Republicans have tried to persuade him to sign the bill and avert another government shutdown starting Saturday.

Brian Murphy covers North Carolina’s congressional delegation and state issues from Washington, D.C., for The News & Observer, The Charlotte Observer and The Herald-Sun. He grew up in Cary and graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill. He previously worked for news organizations in Georgia, Idaho and Virginia. Reach him at 202.383.6089 or bmurphy@mcclatchydc.com.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau with a focus on immigration and foreign affairs. He previously covered Latin American affairs for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. He moved to Washington in 2011 after six years at the Charlotte Observer covering immigration and working on investigative projects for The Charlotte Observer.