Border wall deal not certain

Border wall deal not certain

Negotiators who have been working day and night to avoid a second US government shutdown on Friday have reached a consensus on border security — but Donald Trump is already in revolt.

Republicans and Democrats agreed to a deal that included just under $US1.4 billion ($A1.9 billion) for a barrier on the US-Mexico border.

It is only a fraction of the $US5.7 billion ($A8 billion) Mr Trump wanted for his wall, and will fund an extra 89 kilometres of steel slats or another structure in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as providing more beds in detention.

It is unclear whether the President will support the deal, although GOP congress members desperate to avoid a politically damaging shutdown said they were hopeful that he would.

“We’re building the wall anyway,” Mr Trump told a crowd in El Paso on Monday night. “The wall’s being built, it will continue, it’s going at a rapid pace.”

Just before the rally, he told Fox News host Laura Ingraham the wall was a “moral thing”, but did not give an answer on whether he would endorse the agreement. “A lot of things have changed, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.

Trump supporters have already attacked the deal, indicating that the President will still get what he wants. “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain,” said Fox News host Sean Hannity.

North Carolina congressman Mark Meadows said the agreement was “hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration” and “kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs.”

Jim Jordan, of Ohio, added: “While the President was giving a great speech in El Paso, Congress was putting together a bad deal on immigration.”

Conservative sources said Mr Trump would agree to the deal and then return to the idea of using executive powers or declaring a national emergency to divert money for wall construction, though he would most likely face legal challenges.

Several Republicans urged the President to accept the spending agreement, with Senator Johnny Isakson telling CNN Mr Trump was “in a box”, adding: “Shutdowns are bad, period.”

Senator Susan Collins — a key Democrat target in 2020 — said that “absolutely” Mr Trump should sign it, repeating her concerns about declaring a national emergency.

Bloomberg’s White House correspondent Margaret Talev said she “would be very surprised” to see Mr Trump support the proposal. She said the question was whether he would “express dissatisfaction” with a counter-offer, or by approving the deal and then taking executive action.

On Monday afternoon, Mr Trump met top advisers in the Oval Office to discuss the negotiations. “We can call it anything. We’ll call it barriers, we’ll call it whatever they want,” he said. “But now it turns out not only don’t they want to give us money for a wall, they don’t want to give us the space to detain murderers, criminals, drug dealers, human smugglers.”

His words came as hundreds of government officials descended on the Texas border town of Eagle Pass, parking vehicles and roaming the banks of the Rio Grande river to block passage of migrants who arrived via “caravan”.

The recent, record 35-day shutdown left more than 800,000 government workers without pay, contractors and small businesses stymied and damaged Mr Trump’s approval rating. Politicians fear a huge backlash from the public if there were to be another closure, leaving hundreds of thousands of Americans unpaid yet gain.

Mr Trump, who said in December he would be “proud” to shut the federal government over border security, took a different tack on Monday. “It’s up to the Democrats,” he told reporters at the White House, when asked whether the government was headed toward its second shutdown of the winter.

A White House official said it was looking at the details of the border security agreement on Tuesday morning. Legislation will then be drafted and the House of Representative and the Senate will vote on whether to agree to it and keep the government funded until September.

It will then be up to Mr Trump to sign off on the legislation before Friday, when funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies expires.

The proposed deal provides funds for an average detention population of 45,274, including 2500 family beds. It also includes another $US750 million ($A1 billion) for 13,000 additional beds if US Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs to respond to a surge in illegal immigration and arrests.

That would bring the total number of beds to almost 58,500 — an 18 per cent increase on the current detention population of 49,057.

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