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How migrant detention details stalled border security talks

Just weeks after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended, the prospect of a second shutdown looms. Democratic and Republican negotiators are now at odds over who and how many people should be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Judy Woodruff is joined by Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor for an update on what both sides want.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With just five days to go before another potential government shutdown, funding talks on Capitol Hill have hit rough waters.

    A group of bipartisan lawmakers met again late this afternoon to try to revive the stalled border negotiations. Meanwhile, the president continued to throw barbs at Democrats.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Donald Trump:

    Without a wall, it's not going to work.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Before leaving the White House today for a rally in El Paso, Texas, President Trump weighed in on the prospect of a second shutdown, just weeks after the longest in U.S. history ended.

    At issue, who and how many people should be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Democrats specifically want to cap the number who are apprehended and detained inside the country to 16,500 at any one time.

    California Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, a Democratic member of the border security conference committee, said in a statement that the cap — quote — "will force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants who are contributing to our country."

    But Republicans insist capping ICE detentions is dangerous.

  • Donald Trump:

    They want to cut ICE. They take out MS-13 and others by the thousands. And they want to cut ICE. So we're not going to let that happen.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    You cannot take a shutdown off the table.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On Sunday, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney indicated many outcomes are possible, including another shutdown, a compromise or a declaration by the president of an emergency.

  • Mick Mulvaney:

    You cannot take 5.7 off the table. But if you end up somewhere in the middle, yes, but what you will probably see is the president saying yes, OK, and I will go find the money someplace else.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In a last-ditch effort today, four members of the bipartisan group met again this afternoon. They included two Democrats and two Republicans, the top four members of House and Senate Appropriations.

    They're all hoping to agree on something the president can sign before Friday at midnight.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we turn now to Lisa and to our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Hello to both of you.

    So, Lisa, where does everything stand right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    I just came from the Capitol and from that conference committee meeting. They broke up and then they said, we're coming back. They should be back actually restarting that meeting any minute now, Judy. That's a very good sign.

    They met for about an hour and 15 minutes. And they say they still think it is useful for them to be talking tonight. An even better sign, they didn't tell us anything about what they said inside. That usually means a sign of progress.

    I want to go over very quickly exactly where this hangup is. Let's talk about these interior detentions that the Democrats want to deal with. They want to cap those interior detentions. Again, that is people who were detained while inside this country, not people detained while crossing the border or seeking asylum.

    Charges for these people can range from anything from DUIs. It can be violent crimes, can be gang-related, but it could also be visa overstays. So, Judy, this is a very wide group of people. And Democrats are worried that in this group are included many people who have no real violent offenses.

    So here's what Democrats want to do. They want to limit that group, that number of detention for that group to 16,500. That's a per-day detention number. Currently, there are about 20,000 to 22,000 people who are detained in this interior detention category.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, 16,000 per day.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right. It's an average per day.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, you have been talking to the White House. What is their position this question of number of beds?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The White House doesn't want any sort of limit to be on ICE. They don't want any sort of limit on the number of people that can be held, both as interior arrests or as exterior arrests.

    I want to walk through what the White House wants. They want absolutely no cap on any sort of beds, because they say that ICE should be allowed to do their job without thinking of how many number of people are in custody. They also want to keep those 20,000 to 22,000 people currently in custody that were, again, arrested inside the country.

    They say it's because these people have already run out. They stayed there. There are people who have overstayed visas. But there are also people who have, as Lisa said, committed violent crimes such as domestic violence or drug offenses.

    And then they also say that the president wants a budget of 52,000 beds total. That of course, would include people arrested inside the country as well as crossing the border. I talked to an ICE official today. That person said that they don't make this distinction between interior and exterior. They want to say that anybody that's here should be — should be considered a criminal.

    And I want to tell you about the numbers here. Because they're not making that distinction, they say that there are 48,747 people total in ICE custody currently, and they're making that number because they say 52,000 is just a little bit above that, and that they're in a crisis here.

    And then the more people that are arrested, they need more beds for this. They also say that there are 2,100 family units. Those are people, of course, that are coming, not just children, but also their parents included in that number. And their official stance is, we don't want to immediately have to release anybody into society.

    That means that, if we get the number capped, we're going to have to put those people somewhere, and it means back into the community.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Lisa, given this split, what are the prospects we're going to see the government shut down again?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, the sign for hope is again that negotiators are talking tonight.

    And, Judy, there is no appetite for a shutdown at the Capitol at all. The problem is that we're now seeing I think some politics of the base come to play. With Democrats making this new — kind of new demand here, Republicans are starting to say, well, maybe if there's a shutdown, it will be blamed on Democrats.

    Who knows if that's the case? But Republicans starting to see an advantage to them in a shutdown is a bad thing from government workers.

    Democrats, on the other hand, want something for their base, who doesn't like ICE.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in the middle of all this, Yamiche, how far is the president willing to go? He's already compromised some. How much is he willing to compromise further?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Last week, the White House was really taking a step back and saying, we're going to let the Hill figure this out.

    Today was completely different. I ran into Mick Mulvaney today running around the White House, basically trying to make the case that a shutdown is still on the table and that the president wants to make some sort of compromise, but that Democrats are moving the goalposts.

    They're saying the Democrats, because they want this cap, are essentially saying, well, you know what, we want to give you a little bit of wall money, but we want so much more in return. So the White House's signaling that the president will take than the $5 billion that he shut down the government for last time when we had that long shutdown for 35 days, but they haven't come up with an exact number.

    And, as you can remember, the president has changed his mind. So they can float a 42.5 billion, maybe $2.6 billion for a while, and then the president could turn around and say, you know what, I want all $5 billion because it makes me look bad.

    So we will just have to wait and see what the president ultimately decides.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Sounds tough.

    But, Lisa, as you say, they are still talking.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And we may still be talking about this Friday. We will see.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We shall see.

    All right, Lisa Desjardins, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.

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