Border wall talks break down ahead of second possible government shutdown

 foxnews.com  2/10/2019 3:08:47 PM   Gregg Re

With less than a week to go until another potential partial federal government shutdown begins on Friday, bipartisan compromise talks on funding for President Trump's proposed border wall have completely broken down, sources tell Fox News.

The sudden development again raised the possibility that Trump will declare a national emergency to access previously appropriated funds to initiate construction on a border wall. The White House agreed to a temporary spending bill late last month to end a 35-day government shutdown, although Trump said at the time that the move was not a "concession" and that he would not relent on his demands for a wall.

"Talks have broken down because Senate Republicans are refusing to compromise on limits to the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies," a senior Democratic aide told Fox News on Sunday. "A deal that includes new physical barriers must also include limits on the number of ICE detention beds. If Senate Republicans won’t compromise with us on both, we can’t reach a deal.”

As recently as Friday, congressional negotiators said they expected a deal to be made, although they indicated that money for physical barriers would likely end up well below the $5.7 billion that Trump has sought to begin construction of the wall.

The amount discussed hovered much closer to $1.6 billion, participants in the negotiations said, a figure that was in a bipartisan Senate bill last year.

"That's what we're working toward," said California Democratic Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard.

Over the weekend, Democrats seemed to draw a firm line on spending.

"Throughout the talks, Democrats have insisted that a border security compromise not be overly reliant on physical barriers," said Evan Hollander, spokesman for Democrats who control the House Appropriations Committee. "We will not agree to $2 billion in funding for barriers."

The White House has previously offered a three-year extension of protections for 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, in exchange for the $5.7 billion Trump has been seeking for a barrier along the nation's southern border with Mexico. The offered deal would also extend protections for 300,000 recipients of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program -- which protects immigrants from designated countries with conditions that prevent nationals from returning safely.

But Democrats have called the border wall nothing more than a political stunt that they will never agree to fund, while Republicans point to what they have called a "crisis" at the border. Central Americans are increasingly entering the United States illegally in groups of at least 100 people in rugged, remote stretches of the Mexican border, authorities said Friday upon releasing January figures that show total arrests fell for a second straight month.

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A group of 325 Central Americans surrendered to agents Thursday near Lukeville, Ariz., according to Customs and Border Protection. Migrants told authorities that buses and trucks dropped them off throughout the night on a nearby Mexican highway that runs parallel to the border and they entered the U.S. together to wait for agents to find them. There were nearly 150 children, including 32 who were traveling alone.

The Border Patrol has encountered groups of at least 100 people 60 times since Oct. 1, compared to 13 during the entire 2018 fiscal year and two in the 2017 fiscal year, officials said. Many are in the desolate New Mexico Bootheel and Arizona deserts.

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2019, file photo, Yuli Arias, left, stands near a newly-replaced section of the border wall as her mother, Esther Arias, center, stands in the family's house that was once threatened by construction along the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The Trump administration said Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, it would waive environmental reviews to replace up to 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) of border barrier in San Diego, shielding itself from potentially crippling delays. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2019, file photo, Yuli Arias, left, stands near a newly-replaced section of the border wall as her mother, Esther Arias, center, stands in the family's house that was once threatened by construction along the border in Tijuana, Mexico. The Trump administration said Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019, it would waive environmental reviews to replace up to 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) of border barrier in San Diego, shielding itself from potentially crippling delays. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

It is unclear what's driving the sudden uptick of large groups in remote areas, but families, many of them Central American asylum seekers, make up a large and growing percentage of arrests across the border.

U.S. authorities arrested or stopped people for immigration violations 58,207 times in January, down 4 percent from 60,779 in December but up 62 percent from 35,905 in January 2018. It was the second straight monthly decline, though arrests typically fall from December to January.

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Families and children traveling alone accounted for 33,861 of those encounters, or nearly 6 of every 10 stopped at official crossings or arrested for entering the country illegally between crossings, mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. That's a dramatic change from several years ago, when most people who crossed illegally were single Mexican adults.

The large percentage of families and young children has stretched U.S. authorities even more in remote areas where staffing is thinner. Customs and Border Protection says medical attention was needed about 12,000 times for border crossers in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30.

On Jan. 14, a group of 376 Central Americans was arrested near San Luis, Ariz., the vast majority of them Guatemalan families who dug short, shallow holes under a barrier to cross the border, according to authorities.

Fox News' Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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