A Democratic proposal to reverse strict guidance on who can be granted asylum in the United States is a sticking point in ongoing congressional border security negotiations aimed at averting another government shutdown.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the guidance in June, saying that fears of domestic violence or gang violence could not be used as grounds to claim asylum.
Democrats, led by North Carolina Rep. David Price, have made reversing that stance a key part of their negotiations with Republicans over a bipartisan border security bill. Price is a member of the conference committee, which faces a Feb. 15 deadline to come to terms on spending for homeland security, including potential physical barriers or a wall on the southern border.
“It’s a source of contention,” said Price, a veteran lawmaker and member of the House Appropriations Committee.
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Leaders of the group said they’re steering clear of most major changes to immigration and asylum rules — in hopes of crafting something that can garner support of both Democrats and Republicans, including President Donald Trump.
Price’s proposal would not allow any Homeland Security funds to be used for any guidance “that disqualifies most victims of gang violence and domestic violence from asylum eligibility,” according to the Democrats’ proposal.
The White House offered no comment when asked about the asylum proposal.
Price originally got his amendment added to the Homeland Security appropriations bill in July when it passed the Republican-led committee with then-chairman Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, supporting it.
The Trump administration quickly pushed back, and Yoder promised to strip it out. Yoder lost his re-election bid in November, and when Democrats took control of the House they brought back the amendment.
“The Republicans, as you know, took it out. It’s now back in, and I hope it stays in. It should stay in. There’s almost unanimous agreement on our side and some Republican agreement,” Price said.
Price said the committee has made progress, but “there’s a list of things that are major differences,” including the number of detention beds and border patrol agents and how much funding there is for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or ICE.
And, of course, funding for the wall, which led to a 35-day government shutdown.
“We’ve done a lot of things that I think we’re in agreement, but there’s certain things where we have to bring in leadership,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat and a member of the committee.
McClatchyDC reporter Franco Ordonez contributed to this report.