President Barack Obama is requesting $US3.7 billion in emergency funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of migrants — many of them unaccompanied children — have flooded across the border in recent months.
The White House formally asked Congress on Tuesday for $US3.7 billion to improve border security along the border, to improve housing conditions where the migrants are being kept, and to speed up deportation proceedings. The amount is almost $US2 billion more than earlier reports suggested the Obama administration would request.
White House officials said last month that, as of June 15, 52,000 unaccompanied children from Central America have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border this year. In addition, border officials have taken 39,000 more adults with children into custody as of May 31.
Hundreds are coming over the border every day, mostly making their way from violence-stricken areas in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The causes for the influx are many, but a large portion are children fleeing increased drug and gang violence.
The funding, which needs to be approved by Congress, would go to several federal agencies:
• The largest amount would go to the Department of Health and Human Services, for which the White House is requesting an additional $US1.8 billion to care for the unaccompanied children. “With these funds, HHS will have the resources to be able to care for the children currently projected to come into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security while putting in place more stable, cost-effective arrangements for these children going forward,” the White House said.
• The Department of Homeland Security is seeking $US1.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as an additional $US433 million for Customs and Border Protection. A large chunk of that sum would go toward the detention and removal of apprehended undocumented adults travelling with children, additional prosecution capacity for those adults, and overtime and duty costs for existing and additional Border Patrol agents.
• A total of $US64 million would go to the Department of Justice, most of which would go toward hiring 40 additional immigration judge teams to speed up deportation proceedings. The White House said this would help process an additional 55,000-75,000 cases each year.
• About $US300 million would go to the State Department under the proposal, most of which would go toward “efforts to repatriate and reintegrate migrants to Central America.” About $US5 million of the total would go toward media messaging, in which the administration would highlight the dangerous nature of migrating from Central America to the U.S. and emphasise those who do enter the U.S. will not be given permission to stay.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said the House Appropriations Committee would begin reviewing the president’s proposal.
“The Speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas — which this proposal does not address,” Steel added.
Obama is spending two days this week in Texas. He has faced criticism for not travelling to the border, but he will meet with local leaders — including Republican Gov. Rick Perry — about the crisis.
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