U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday expressed optimism over prospects of congressional negotiators hammering out a border security deal before a Feb. 15 deadline, as another leading lawmaker met with President Donald Trump about the talks that have been underway.
A bipartisan group of 17 members of the House of Representatives and Senate have been meeting behind closed doors to try to break an impasse over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion this year to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pelosi, who says she will not meddle in the negotiations, had held a firm line against any money for building a wall, sparking a stand-off with Trump that resulted in a 35-day partial government shutdown that began on Dec. 22.
In her weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi told reporters, “Hopefully we will get some good news in a short period of time and certainly in time for the deadline of Feb. 15.”
She did not provide any details what kind of border security measures might be funded in any deal to keep the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies operating through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30.
“Just let them do their work,” Pelosi said of the panel appointed to broker a border security funding agreement.
Negotiators have talked about a mix of border security tools, such as more law enforcement agents, procuring more high-tech devices to repel illegal drugs and undocumented immigrants from entering the United States and additional physical barriers.
A lead negotiator, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, who is a Republican, met at the White House on Thursday morning to talk to Trump about the ongoing negotiations, according to a Senate aide.
No further details on that meeting were immediately available.
Meanwhile, some liberal House Democrats and immigration advocacy groups gathered outside the Capitol to demand funding cuts to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is in charge of enforcing immigration law in the interior of the country, including deporting undocumented immigrants.
“An agency like ICE, which repeatedly and systematically violates human rights, does not deserve a dime,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
She said Trump was seeking billions of dollars to “continue to militarize and weaponize a force that has zero accountability.”
While immigrant groups and some Democrats have criticized ICE’s tactics as heavy-handed, Trump has praised the agency’s work in protecting the United States from what he calls dangerous criminals.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish)