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'This Is Political Cowardice': Fury at Schumer for Offering $1.6 Billion for Trump's Anti-Immigrant Agenda

"We need Democratic leadership who are going to have a goddamn backbone and reject this racist ideology."

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls on reporters with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol November 27, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With the brutal consequences of President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant agenda on full display after U.S. Border Patrol fired tear gas at asylum seekers in Mexico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sparked fury from progressives and immigrant rights groups on Tuesday by telling reporters that he is perfectly willing to cede ground to the president's xenophobic policies and offer up $1.6 billion for "border security" funding in upcoming budget talks.

"Did every mainstream Democrat suddenly decide it's time to offer a 'kinder, gentler' anti-immigration message?"
—Richard Eskow
"We are for strong border security," Schumer declared when asked about Trump's request for $5 billion in border wall funding.

When asked if he would be willing to go higher than $1.6 billion, Schumer dodged the question, saying he doesn't want to negotiate through the media.

While Schumer's office clarified that the $1.6 billion in funding he supports would not be for Trump's racist border wall but rather for non-concrete "fencing" and other ill-defined "border security" initiatives, critics expressed dismay that the top Senate Democrat is offering any funding for the president's anti-immigrant agenda, particularly after the GOP was repudiated in the midterm elections.

"Chuck Schumer is not fit to be Minority Leader."
—Jonathan Cohn

"Did every mainstream Democrat suddenly decide it's time to offer a 'kinder, gentler' anti-immigration message? And do they think that 'fences' are more humane than walls?" asked Richard Eskow, senior advisor for health and economic justice at Social Security Works and host of "The Zero Hour."

"They must, since so many voted for border fencing in 2006," Eskow continued. "No fences. No walls. Support all asylum seekers."

Schumer, who was easily reelected as Senate Democratic leader earlier this month, has faced almost constant ire from the progressive grassroots in recent months as he has allowed over a dozen of Trump's right-wing judges to sail through the Senate with no resistance while getting almost nothing in return—aside from a bit more time to campaign.

Summarizing Schumer's abysmal record over the past two years, Frank Dale of Think Progress wrote:

In addition to clearing the way for numerous Trump judicial nominations, Schumer has condemned fellow Democrats while calling for more 'civility' in politics, enabled the repeal of financial regulations put in place after the Great Recession, praised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), praised the president’s for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel, backed the confirmations of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, FBI director Christopher Wray, CIA director Mike Pompeo, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Veteran Affairs Secretaries David Shulkin and Robert Wilkie, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

After Schumer expressed his willingness to hand Trump nearly $2 billion for border security as the president continues to separate families at the border works to strip away asylum rights, progressives argued that this is just the latest reason Senate Democrats desperately need a new leader.

"Chuck Schumer is not fit to be Minority Leader," concluded progressive activist Jonathan Cohn.

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