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Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

The House of Representatives passed a $4.6 billion spending bill yesterday, to provide funding for Donald Trump's crisis at the border. After "moderate" Democrats refused to support amendments that would have required basic decency in the treatment of migrant families and kids, Speaker Nancy Pelosi reluctantly put forward the Senate version of the bill, withdrawing the stronger House bill that passed earlier this week. The package now goes to Donald Trump, who's expected to sign it as long as someone reminds him not to leave the room after boasting about what a huge victory it is for him.

Pelosi made clear she wasn't happy about it:

"In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly pass the Senate bill," Ms. Pelosi said in a letter to Democratic lawmakers. "As we pass the Senate bill, we will do so with a battle cry as to how we go forward to protect children in a way that truly honors their dignity and worth."

The moderate "Blue Dog" and "Problem Solver" caucuses ran away from the amendments Pelosi wanted, which would have brought the Senate bill in line with the House version. But those desertions weren't because of the provisions aimed at forcing government to provide decent care and sanitation for detained migrants. Instead, the "moderates" balked at an $81 million cut to the budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE):


Moderate Democrats privately told House Democratic leaders that they were wary of supporting a bill that provided less money for ICE that could later be used against them in their re-election campaigns to portray them as weak on immigration enforcement, according to two lawmakers and several aides familiar with the discussions who described them on the condition of anonymity.

Ain't no way to spin it: This was a loss. The votes just weren't there, and the Senate version passed overwhelmingly -- 84 to 8 -- with bipartisan support, so there was probably not much chance the House version could have prevailed. It's a shitty political reality, but it still sucks. Time to get back to fighting.

Mike Pence also met with Pelosi earlier in the day to tell her that Trump would only sign the Senate version, repeating a veto threat Trump had made earlier in the week. Pence reportedly promised Pelosi the administration would put in place two of the protections the House bill had demanded: notifying Congress within 24 hours if a migrant child dies while in Customs and Border Protection custody, and limiting stays of minors in "temporary influx" baby jails to no more than 90 days.

Yes, that's far too long, especially given the requirement under the 1997 Flores settlement agreement that minors in "influx" be held no longer than 20 days before being released to a sponsor (usually a parent or other relative in the US). But up to now, HHS has exploited a real loophole in the regulations governing shelters: Flores doesn't apply to "temporary influx" shelters like the awful for-profit baby jail in Homestead, Florida. So a 90-day limit would be a microscopic "improvement" over what's been happening at the Homestead shelter, where about half of the kids have been held well over 20 days -- and some kids for up to 120 days. (Let's not forget: this isn't only due to the increasing numbers of immigrants -- it's very deliberate.)

Now the trick will be to get the administration to actually live up to those very limited commitments (haha, our naive optimism is showing).

The Senate bill does at least have one curb on the abusive practices that have kept migrant kids locked up longer. It would abolish the information sharing agreement between HHS and ICE, which has been a huge factor in slowing placements of kids with sponsors. HHS instituted background checks of every family member of people applying to sponsor the jailed kids, which slowed down placement. Worse, HHS sent that information to ICE, leading to mass arrests of undocumented family members. Big surprise! Applications to sponsor kids dropped sharply, and the numbers of kids in baby jails skyrocketed.

Please, nobody tell Trump about that provision, which already pissed off Republicans when the Senate bill first passed. It's just about the only limit to this horrible system to make it into the law, and there was an active effort by House Freedom Cockheads to urge Trump to veto even the Senate version.

Now it's time for Dems to fight again to pass the other limits they wanted on the New Cruelty, like forcing CBP to meet health, nutrition, and safety standards in border stations and to give members of Congress the ability to demand access to any facility holding migrants, without delay. But ultimately, we need to get the current band of kidnappers out of office in 2020.

[NYT / WaPo / Photo: Nancy Pelosi at California Democratic Party State Convention, June 2019. Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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