Progressive members of Congress are pressuring their colleagues to cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security, threatening another government shutdown.
A copy of the "dear colleague" letter circulated from Reps. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D., Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) details their demands concerning homeland security, the Daily Beast first reported Thursday. A member of Omar's staff confirmed the letter's authenticity in an email to the Washington Free Beacon.
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The letter was distributed to the members of the bipartisan, bicameral committee responsible for reaching an arrangement to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2019. The government was shut down for a record 35 days after President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats came to an impasse over funding for a wall along the southern border. The two sides agreed last Friday to fund the government for several weeks, allowing government agencies to reopen and employees to receive paychecks while Washington hashes out a budget.
The letter accuses homeland security officials of failing to report deaths in a timely manner, evading congressional oversight, and operating as a "slush fund" for other federal projects.
It claims DHS, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), agencies under its purview, "prosecute immigrants who are part of the fabric of our community," presumably in reference to those who enter or remain illegally to the United States and are, by law, prosecutable.
The four freshmen went further, insisting that no additional funding go to DHS as part of a budget agreement for the remainder of the fiscal year. "With the world watching and the lives of families at stake, we should not compromise our values at the negotiating table," they wrote.
Though they made tailored demands of their fellow lawmakers currently negotiating a budget solution, the four also referenced their broader ambitions moving forward, saying "we need comprehensive immigration reform."