House Freedom Caucus Pushes GOP Leadership on Border Security as Shutdown Looms

Now in the final days of their control of the House, Republicans have failed to make good on a major promise they made to voters—namely, funding the border wall to curb illegal immigration, the former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said.

But some caucus members are holding out hope for a last-minute breakthrough.

“How are our chances any better [for getting border wall funding] when Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker?” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told The Daily Signal on Tuesday, referring to the California Democrat and current House minority leader.

Jordan and his fellow Freedom Caucus members were set to speak on the House floor later Wednesday to demand $5 billion in wall funding and the closing of asylum loopholes to end the policy of catch and release of illegal immigrants.

Jordan noted that twice this year, the House Republican majority failed to push for wall funding in appropriations bills.

“This is frustrating. We should have pushed this in March,” he said.

“What we know is that this is not what we told the voters we were going to do,” Jordan said, regarding the failure to appropriate funding for the wall.

As a partial government shutdown looms, White House officials have indicated they might be open to a deal with Congress for a temporary funding measure to keep the government fully running until February that would include $1.6 billion for the border wall.

Republicans currently control both the House and the Senate, but they would likely need 60 votes in the Senate for a wall-funding measure because of Democratic opposition.

Democrats captured control of the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections, and Pelosi is likely to take over as speaker in early January.

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Earlier this month, in a televised White House meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., President Donald Trump threatened to back a partial government shutdown if he did not get funding for the wall.

Congress has already approved funding for 75 percent of federal agency funding through the end of the fiscal year in September 2019, including for the departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Interior, and Veterans Affairs.

If Congress and Trump can’t reach an agreement by Friday, the partial shutdown would affect 25 percent of government funding across the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Transportation.

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said there’s only a 30 percent chance of success in securing the border wall funding.

“We need the American people to rally behind us, then we might have a chance,” Biggs told The Daily Signal. “The Senate is in a hurry to get out of town, and so are many of our [House] colleagues. But if the president is willing to shut down the government for a few days, we might have a shot at accomplishing this.”

For his part, Trump vowed to be victorious on wall funding.

Building a border wall was the cornerstone of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. He also said that Mexico would pay for it, a pledge he said he’s keeping through the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Pelosi, meanwhile, has called for fully funding the government.

With regard to closing the asylum loopholes, among the amendments Freedom Caucus member will push to the Immigration and Nationality Act are to ensure illegal immigrants don’t have the right to a lawyer and make rules more specific to require proving “credible fear” for personal safety in an asylum claim.

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While “catch and release” is not a formal policy, rules in place limit the ability of the U.S. Border Patrol to detain any illegal immigrant who claims asylum.

The Central American immigrant caravan, which at one point numbered about 10,000 people trying to illegally cross the southern border to get into the United States, should prompt congressional action, Jordan said.

“The caravan should demonstrate why we need a wall and why we need to reform the catch-and-release program,” the Ohio lawmaker said.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that waiting until the new year is a giveaway to the incoming Democratic House majority.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was less than clear about where the administration stood.

“At this point, the Senate has thrown out a lot of ideas. We’re disappointed in the fact that they’ve yet to actually vote on something and pass something,” Sanders told reporters Tuesday. “So when they do that, we’ll make a determination on whether or not we’re going to sign that.”

Sanders said Trump is looking at every option available.

“The president has asked every one of his Cabinet secretaries to look for funding that can be used to protect our borders and give the president the ability to fulfill his constitutional obligation to protect the American people by having a secure border,” she said.

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Trump has previously talked about using military funds to pay for the wall.

Jordan said in the interview he wouldn’t be entirely opposed to looking for other funding avenues. But, he said, that’s not the best path forward.

“The objective is to get the wall done. How it works, I’m open to suggestions,” he said. “But it needs to happen the right way by appropriating the $5 billion to do it.”

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