Congressional leaders hope to have avoided a further partial government shutdown after reaching an agreement on a budget that includes over a billion dollars in funding for new barriers along the United States’ border with Mexico.
The deal, announced February 11, comes ahead of a looming Friday deadline to reach an agreement on the budget or else face a further round of partial federal shutdowns. The deal still has to be approved by President Donald Trump, who has previously requested about $5.7 billion to fund the construction of a wall along parts of the southern border.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said that he expects the president to approve of the compromise. The final text has yet to be released, but could come as soon as Wednesday.
The compromise agreement reportedly provides $1.3 billion in funding for border barrier construction along 55 miles of the Rio Grande Valley. The deal is also set to include a gradual reduction of the number of beds used to detain undocumented immigrants in areas not located near the U.S. border, something pushed by Congressional Democrats throughout budget negotiations.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement claims that the majority of undocumented immigrants detained have previous criminal records.
Shelby told reporters that “hard negotiations” had gone in forging an agreement, and that he was confident there would be a successful resolution.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly called for Congress to find a solution that provides both border security as well as protections for undocumented migrants and immigrants.
In a January 10 statement calling for an end to the recent partial government shutdown Bishop Joseph Vasquez of Austin, chair of the USCCB’s migration committee, said that “secure borders and humane treatment of those fleeing persecution and seeking a better life are not mutually exclusive.”
Vasquez said that the U.S. must move to achieve these goals “without instilling fear or sowing hatred,” and said that he would “continue to advocate for immigration reform to advance the common good and address these issues.”
“We urge lawmakers to look beyond rhetoric and remember the human dignity that God our Father has given each of us simply because we are all His children,” he said.
Some border bishops have been vehemently opposed to the construction of walls in their dioceses. Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, TX, filed suit against the federal government over their request to survey the land surrounding a small chapel located near the Rio Grande. If the border wall were to be built, the chapel would be located on the southern side of the wall and would not be accessible to most of the people who use it.
A judge recently ruled that the government would not be impeding the exercise of religious freedom if it were to survey the land around the chapel to determine if a wall could be built.