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By Julia Ainsley and Heidi Przybyla
WASHINGTON — Talks to avert another government shutdown broke down over the weekend — this time over Democrats’ demand for a cap on the number of undocumented immigrants who can be detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The issue has reared its head because the White House has asked for $4.2 billion for ICE to increase its capacity to detain immigrants to 52,000, up from 40,000 currently funded by Congress. Democrats want to cap the detention space ICE can use to hold immigrants in the interior of the country — away from the border — at 16,500.
Here’s a look at what’s driving both sides to their positions.
Why does ICE need more space?
Currently, ICE is already holding more immigrants than Congress has authorized. Although it is only authorized to hold 40,000, there were 49,057 immigrants in ICE detention as of Feb. 6, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee. An ICE spokeswoman said the average daily population for this year as of Jan. 26 was 45,671.
When ICE does not have funding for space, they may take funds from other areas or use contracts with prisons to find additional beds for immigrants.
In the interior of the country, where Democrats would like to see a limit of 16,500 immigrants in detention, there are approximately 20,800 migrants being held, according to an ICE official authorized to speak on the subject.
Who are these immigrants in ICE detention?
President Donald Trump has repeatedly said ICE is holding dangerous criminals, including murderers. While ICE held immigrants in fiscal year 2018 who collectively were convicted on 54,630 charges, only 1,641 of the charges were homicide. The most frequent charges were for driving under the influence, followed by drug offenses, traffic offenses and immigration offenses (such as re-entering the country after a deportation order.)
Why are noncriminal or nonviolent immigrants in ICE detention?
Under President Barack Obama, ICE was told to prioritize immigrants convicted of serious crimes and those who posed threats to national security. As a result, in fiscal year 2016, 98 percent of immigrants arrested in the United States fit those priorities.
Trump changed that practice, making every immigrant in the country illegally a priority for arrest and deportation by ICE. As a result, in fiscal year 2018, 20 percent of immigrants arrested by ICE had no criminal conviction.
The ICE official told NBC News that 89 percent of immigrants currently being held in detention have been convicted or charged with crimes.
Criminal immigrants in ICE detention have served their time in the U.S. penal system and are awaiting deportation.
Why do Democrats want a cap?
After high-profile deportations and raids by ICE, including arrests at courthouses and deportations of military spouses, some Democrats began calling for ICE to be abolished.
Democrats on the conference committee negotiating the budget have pushed for ICE to cap its detention space so that noncriminals will be left out of ICE enforcement operations.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democrat from California and a member of the conference committee, said in a statement, “A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country.”
A Democratic aide who reviewed the White House’s January budget request said the proposal “continues to assume that the only approach to handling recent border crossers is detention. This is also an historically high number of beds to maintain and could be used as a ‘bail out’ for ICE, which has been consistently operating well over its appropriated levels for detention space in the past few years.”
Brexit Party warns MPs trying to block UK leaving EU 'we're coming for your seats'
NIGEL FARAGE’s Brexit Party have warned they will battle to unseat no deal scuppering MPs plotting to overturn the result of the 2016 referendum and stop Britain leaving the EU by deliberately targeting their seats.
Gary Lineker offers to stand as interim Prime Minister to stop 'crooked' Brexit
Frightened kids ask candidates to protect them from school shooters
NEWTON, Iowa — The moments happen all across the country. Tiny faces, peering out from behind their parents, or timidly accepting a microphone as the room falls silent. They make eye contact with a larger-than-life presidential candidate and ask: Can you keep me safe at school? Can you stop the shootings?
The questions from children have become a hallmark of the 2020 presidential campaign, with nearly every candidate facing some version of the same emotional query.
Perhaps Sen. Cory Booker was looking for a softball question when he called on 8-year-old Scout Maloney at a town-hall-event in Nashua, New Hampshire, last month. That isn’t what he got.
“What do you plan to do about school shootings?” Scout asked, telling Booker, D-N.J., that she and her brother are home-schooled in part because their parents fear they could become the victims of gun violence.
Booker told Maloney — and her parents — that he believes his is the strongest plan among the 2020 field to stop mass shootings, saying it would require national licensing and registration of firearms. He also added a personal touch.
“I get very tired, Scout, and I get angry,” he said, “because I’m a person of faith, and I hear these people coming up with thoughts and prayers, but I was taught faith without works is dead.”
In Scout’s case, her parents also attended the event, and encouraged their daughter to ask the question. In some cases, older students are members of advocacy groups, like Every Town for Gun Safety.
In the days after a mass shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus in April, school safety was top of mind for middle school student Milan Underberg, who broke down while questioning Beto O’Rourke when he visited her classroom here in Newton.
“I’m afraid that one day I’ll go to school and I’ll never come out. … I’m sorry,” she said, pausing to collect herself and then continuing through tears. “What actions will you take to protect people like me and my classmates from this happening?”
Sometimes, it is the candidates themselves who are overcome with emotion. That was the case with businessman Andrew Yang last week in Des Moines, Iowa, when a question about one twin watching another get shot on a playground caused him to think about his own young children.
“I have a 6- and 3-year-old boy,” Yang said, choking up. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it. I can’t do it. I’m so sorry.”
The candidates often respond to the questions with similar policy prescriptions: expanding background checks and “red flag” laws, banning the sale of assault-style weapons or proposing programs to buy them back. But the candidates also reflect much of themselves back at the questioner.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pivoted quickly to policy when children in Ohio and Michigan asked her about shootings. And former Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his first wife and their daughter in a car crash and his eldest son to brain cancer, shared his own experience with grief, and the desire it creates to fight for something better.
“I understand what it’s like to lose a kid,” Biden told a high school student in Iowa last week. “I’ve lost two of them. The fact of the matter is, your generation understands this better than anybody, and that’s why it’s going to change. It’s going to change. You’re the best educated, the most open, the most inclusive generation in American history, and you’ve decided no more. I promise you, I promise you it’s going to change in large part because of you.”
Julia Jester, Kailani Koenig, Marianna Sotomayor, Benjamin Pu and Ali Vitali contributed.
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