Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow congressional freshmen on Friday urged negotiators trying to hammer out a border-security compromise and avoid another government shutdown to cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security, claiming the agency has “promulgated an agenda driven by hate—not strategy.”
Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. and Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., penned a letter to lawmakers on the bicameral, bipartisan conference committee tasked with drafting new legislation to address border-security and DHS funding.
“We write to you today seeking your solidarity and support to enter in to the DHS conference committee process with clear eyes,” they wrote, slamming agencies under the Department of Homeland Security, like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and urging lawmakers to follow “critical” guidelines to protect immigrant families.
“Cut, do not increase funding,” they wrote. “The deal reached by the Conference Committee should not allocate any additional funding to this department or to the ICE and CBP agencies. The upcoming FY 2020 budget process will be a critical opportunity to take up conversations about reforms to the agency. In the meantime, not another dollar.”
Any push to cut DHS funding, however, would likely run into Trump's veto pen and risk another shutdown.
The letter was sent one week after Congress passed a short-term spending package to reopen the government after a 35-day partial shutdown—the longest in U.S. history. The stopgap spending bill funds the government through Feb. 15, and did not include any funding for Trump’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Trump took heat from the right for even agreeing to the temporary spending package but has reiterated his demands for a border wall or barrier this week.
The original 35-day standoff was triggered after Trump requested $5.7 billion for border security and barrier funding, and Democrats vowed to block any spending package that included wall funding.
The House and Senate agreed to “go to conference” on the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Lawmakers on the committee could potentially come to an agreement on a border security deal as they have done in the past, but whether Trump would support it remains to be seen.
The president has signaled that if Congress does not come to an agreement that includes the funding he deems necessary for construction of a wall, he would use his presidential powers to declare a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have said they would oppose Trump declaring an emergency, saying it could set a dangerous precedent for future presidents who may use the strategy to push their agenda.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was “for whatever works that would prevent the level of dysfunction we’ve seen on full display here the last month and also doesn’t bring about a view on the president’s part that he needs to declare a national emergency.”
Meanwhile, some Democrats have said they support a plan for border security that includes some sort of fencing or physical structure in areas necessary.
"We've consistently said that we do not support a medieval border wall from sea to shining sea," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said. "However, we are able to support fencing where it makes sense, but it should be done in an evidence-based fashion."
Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.