On April 30, 2019, Politico reported that the White House plans to ask Congress for billions of dollars in additional funding to deal with the unfolding disaster that is occurring along the Southwest border. This is in line with recommendations in a recent bipartisan report from the Homeland Security Advisory Council's CBP Families and Children Care Panel.
According to Politico:
The White House is expected to soon ask Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to multiple sources, although none of these funds will be used for a border wall.
In addition to more money for the Homeland Security Department, the White House is also expected to seek additional funds for HHS and the Justice Department — "every stage of migrant processing," said one source familiar with the request.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told House appropriators that this request for additional funding would "'address critical humanitarian requirements' and make sure the crisis is handled in a 'humane and safe manner.'" Politico continued:
Specifically, he said the money would pay for more food, shelter and medical care for hundreds of people — including many families — who attempt to cross the border. It would also help DHS build temporary processing centers, as well as additional personnel and upgrades to what McAleenan called "overtaxed" electronic systems.
The panel underscored the need for such funding. In its report, it notes the massive increase in the number of family units (FMUs) entering illegally along the Southwest border, and the effect that influx is having both on the ability of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to perform its core missions and on the migrants themselves. It called on the government to:
Establish and staff 3 to 4 Regional Processing Centers (RPCs) along the border, scalable and with sufficient capacity to shelter all FMUs apprehended at the border and, among other things, provide safe and sanitary shelter, to include medical screening and care, credible fear examinations, vetting for identity and familial relationship, and evaluations for public health and safety, national security and flight risk.
Resource and require transport from [U.S. Border Patrol (USBP)] stations and POEs of all FMUs to an RPC, within 24 hours or less of apprehension.
While recognizing that enacting these recommendations would "require an emergency supplemental appropriation with funding to cover the costs of, among other things, erecting and staffing the RPCs, transportation to RPCs to meet the 24-hour requirement and providing health care for minors," it explained that the billions of dollars in expenditures it called for "is the only way to ensure treatment of migrant children that conforms to our values."
Again, the full scope of the administration's request is not known at this time, but I would expect that it would include funding to implement the panel's recommendations. Logically, and normally, such a request would be met with bipartisan support, given the scope of the disaster that is unfolding along the border. Politico suggests that is not necessarily the case, however:
House Democrats — who have fought the White House's immigration policies tooth and nail — are unlikely to even seriously consider the administration's full request.
Instead, Democrats say they're willing to consider doling out cash for only certain programs within DHS, with no new money for enforcement.
And Democrats will only agree to add money toward humanitarian efforts, according to one Democratic aide familiar with internal deliberations.
It is not clear at this stage whether the panel's recommendations would fall within the scope of House Democrats' definition of "humanitarian efforts". The panel's report provides significant evidence to support its recommendations on humanitarian grounds, however:
Tender age children are at the heart of the crisis. Most, 73 percent, of the children in FMUs illegally crossing our border are tender aged, being 12 or younger.
The unabated 600% surge of FMUs from Central America to our borders and properly caring for this population have overwhelmed the entire government and brought our border security and immigration management systems to the point of collapse.
Migrant children are traumatized during their journey to and into the U.S. The journey from Central America through Mexico to remote regions of the U.S. border is a dangerous one for the children involved, as well as for their parent. There are credible reports that female parents of minor children have been raped, that many migrants are robbed, and that they and their child are held hostage and extorted for money.
Criminal migrant smuggling organizations are preying upon these desperate populations, encouraging their migration to the border despite the dangers, especially in remote places designed to overwhelm existing USBP infrastructure, and extorting migrants along the way, thereby reaping millions of dollars for themselves and the drug cartels who also charge money to cross the border.
A substantial number of families and children are entering our country in remote areas of the border versus the POEs, enduring dangerous and terrifying crossings in remote desert areas, across rivers, over fences, and through razor wire. These children increasingly require significant personal and medical care that exceeds the ability and capacity of CBP even with their current patchwork of contracted assistance. Despite CBP's creative and humane attempts to care for these children during their confinement, CBP facilities, both at USBP stations and POEs, are grossly inadequate.
Politico notes that:
The debate [over the administration's request for supplemental funding] will ... give Democrats a chance to question administration officials over Trump's immigration policies, including changes to U.S. asylum regulations, detention of minors and families, and a hugely controversial plan to send migrants to "sanctuary cities," an idea floated publicly by Trump to heavy Democratic criticism.
I am hopeful that in the course of that grilling, members will also consider the findings and recommendations in the bipartisan panel's report. Political theater should not overshadow the human and security costs of what is going on along the Southwest border.