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Majority of Hispanic Caucus votes against spending bill with wall funds

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Tuesday came out against a bipartisan Homeland Security spending package, with a majority of its members voting against it over its immigration provisions.

In a major year-end spending deal, Democrats and Republicans agreed to provide $1.375 billion toward a physical barrier along the southern border and to maintain funding levels for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They also did not impose new restrictions on President Trump’s ability to use emergency powers to redirect certain defense funds toward the wall, though courts have at least temporarily blocked such actions.

The CHC as a group formally came out against that bill ahead of the vote, which ultimately passed 280-138, with 75 Democrats voting against. Twenty-two of the group’s 38 members ended up voting against the package. The House also passed another broader spending package, with President Trump expected to sign both of them by week’s end.

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“[T]oday’s Homeland Security minibus maintains high numbers of ICE detention beds and does not include restrictions to stop the Administration from robbing accounts across the government to fund its anti-immigrant agenda, which has denied the human dignity to thousands of families and resulted in rapes, kidnapping, mass suffering, and even death at our border,” the group wrote in a statement ahead of the vote.

“Moreover, it allows this Administration to continue ramping up confiscation of American private property in order to build President Trump’s border wall,” the group added.

The opposition was not a surprise to Democratic leadership. After a meeting with the CHC last week, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) acknowledged that the final deal could lose some votes.

“When you’re putting together a 12-piece appropriations bill, everyone isn’t going to love every part of it,” she said.

“We just need enough votes to pass, and I’d like to get the majority of Democrats, at least,” she added.

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Trump has continued to push aggressively to build the wall.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters Tuesday he’s confident the 2020 border wall package will get the agency close to its goal of finishing 450 miles of new border wall system by the end of the fiscal year.

Morgan added that his office has engaged with members of Congress, staffers and constituents from border communities to educate them on the benefits of the wall.

Still, the CHC, a group whose members represent seven of the nine border districts, said they would oppose the spending bill over the high number of funded immigration detention beds, the lack of restrictions on moving funds from other agencies toward immigration, and for allowing the administration “to continue ramping up confiscation of American private property in order to build President Trump’s border wall.”

Two of the most vocal CHC border members, Texas Democratic Reps. Filemón Vela and Vicente González, told The Hill ahead of the CHC’s announcement they would not vote for the spending bill over wall funding.

Morgan said he found their decision “disappointing.”

“When I see the Congress not being able to get together on a bipartisan manner to be able to fund what I see is an essential tool for us to perform our duty to protect this country, damn right I’m disappointed,” said Morgan

The spending bills have often been a tough vote for CHC members, who must choose between their stance on immigration issues and voting to avoid a potential shutdown.

In perhaps the most crucial spending vote for the CHC in late 2017, two of its members voted with Republicans to pass a spending bill that didn’t include protections for so-called “Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children.

Later that day, eight CHC members voted with the GOP on a supplemental disaster appropriations package.

The CHC was not alone in its opposition to the spending package on Tuesday. The Congressional Progressive Caucus also opposed the measure, citing similar concerns.

“The bill before us today will not stop the abuse and wrongful detention of people in custody, nor will it prevent the Trump Administration from misusing federal funds to advance their horrific mass detention and deportation agenda,” the group’s co-chairs Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).

“We also find it offensive that at a time when millions of families can’t afford to put food on the table, this bill wastes $1.375 billion on the pointless, immoral border wall,” they added.

The progressive group also denounced the increased military spending in the bill.

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